Daily Archives: July 29, 2009

What You Have to Give Up to Write

Got a letter today from an aspiring novelist who is wondering if wanting to write means that one has to be willing to sacrifice a great deal for one’s writing and craft. Because one hears of writers who have made great sacrifices in order to work on their writing, including giving up jobs, friends and spouses in order to put their words into being. Does one have to be willing to put that all on the line for one’s art?

Nah. What you really need to do is cut an hour of TV watching out of your day. Seriously, now: Keep your job, keep your marriage, keep your friends, keep the kids. Just drop an hour of TV.

Because, look: If you’ve got an hour a day to write uninterrupted, you can probably manage between 250 and 500 words a day. Do that five days a week, and in the course of a year that’s between 65,250 and 130,500 words; i.e., hey, you’ve gone and written a novel. All while keeping your day job and not turning into a hermit. This is not complicated.

I think the whole “you must be willing to suffer for your art” thing is overrated and is generally bruited about by people who want to make writing look like some amazing, holy process or whatever. My response to this is, sure, writing can be a wild, transcendent thing, but at the end of the day it’s also about putting your ass into a chair and typing. Writing is a process, and like most processes, if you do it on a regular basis, you generally increase your facility for it.

Now, that covers the process, but maybe the question is meant existentially and experientially, as in “no great writer leads a strife-free life.” But you know, my feeling about that is that life is going to smack you around anyway, so there’s no point in making more trouble for yourself than you have to. Certainly a writer should be open to experience and even seek it out, but going out of one’s way to make one’s life more difficult just seems more trouble than it’s worth, and of dubious utility in any event. Just as a matter of practicality it’s a problem; I mean, when my life’s turning to crap I certainly don’t feel in the mood to write scads of prose. Usually I just end up sitting in my office and glowering at the computer screen.

Yes, there are a lot of writers with tumultuous lives. But I submit to you that in many if not most cases, their lives would have been just as tumultuous had they been in some other line of work, because that was just who they were, independent of their writer brain. I have no doubt there are accountants and firefighters and dentists with equally tumultuous lives, we just don’t hear about them. And very few people suggest that one must be willing to accept strife if one is to file people’s taxes with the IRS or perform root canals.

So yeah, no: Don’t give up everything for your art. Just turn off the damn television for a bit (or put down that XBox controller, or stop staring unblinking at your RSS feed or whatever), and get yourself used to writing a bit every day. You’ll be surprised at how effective it turns out to be, and you’ll still have a job and loved ones at the end of it. Unless you screw up some other way, in which case you will suffer. But it won’t have been for your art. And I think that’s for the best.

My Anticipation Schedule

For those of you heading to Montreal next week for Worldcon, here’s the schedule of what I’m doing there and when.

Thu 14:00 @ P-524B
Hollywood’s Favorite SF Writer
David Weingart, Jason Bourget, Lou Anders, John Scalzi, Lenny Bailes

Forty years ago it might have been Jules Verne or H. G. Wells.  Today it’s the late Philip K. Dick who died before the release of “Blade Runner,” based on his “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” Since then we’re seen “Minority Report,” “Total Recall,” “Next,” “Screamers,” “Imposter,” “Paycheck” and “A Scanner Darkly.”  More are on the way.  Why has Hollywood embraced PKD even as they ignore other giants on the bookshelf?  Which of the films have been most successful?  Most faithful?

Notes: Hey, who doesn’t like Dick? Hmm, that didn’t come out right.

Fri 12:00
John Scalzi Autographing

Notes: This date and time is very likely to change. The reason for this is that they’ve scheduled me for a half hour autographing session and then scheduled me for a panel a half hour later, so either I look like a dick by not sticking around for my entire autographing time in order to get to my panel, or I look like a dick by coming in late to my panel. I noted to the programming people that if I’m going to look like a dick, I prefer it to be because of something I willfully did, not because of scheduling on someone else’s part (translation: I did a diva footstomp about it). Fortunately the programming people are fine people and are working on setting up another signing time, likely Monday at some (early) point. I’ll post when/if I get confirmation. Also, when you get to Anticipation, check the “pink sheets,” which will tell you about late schedule changes and etc.

Fri 12:30 @  P-512AE
Author Reading: Hugo Nominated Non-Fiction
Farah Mendlesohn, Paul Kincaid, John Scalzi

John Scalzi, Paul Kincaid and Farah Mendlesohn read from their nominated works.

Notes: Because, honestly, why should the fiction nominees have all the fun? The folks in the Best Related Book category in fact wrote rockin’ tomes, and if you come out for this, you’ll hear for yourself. I all ready know which bit of Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded I’ll be reading from, and I will read with unreserved glee. You know you want to be there for it.

Fri 20:00 @ P-517D
Singles Meet-and-Greet
Eva Whitley, John Scalzi

A one-evening mini-relaxacon where single con-goers can meet and get acquainted in a no-pressure setting, hosted by Eva Whitely and John Scalzi.

Notes: No, I’m not single (just ask my wife). However, the Worldcon Powers That Be figure I might be a genial host type for you singles out there. Why not come by and find out? Because other singles will be there too. You can tell the kids how you met your future spouse!

Sat 10:00 @ P-512AE
Author Reading
Jon Courtenay Grimwood, John Scalzi, Peter Watts

Notes: This time I’ll be reading fiction. I think I’ll bring something new. And short, since the three of us have an hour slot.

Sat 11:00 @ P-524B
Abby Normal: Comedy and SF
James Zavaglia, Joe Pearce, John Scalzi

The 35th anniversary of the Mel Brooks spoof “Young Frankenstein” is a good excuse to look at movies that treat science-fiction, fantasy and horror not with reverence but for laughs. How difficult is it to balance the genre with the comedy?  Movies like “Galaxy Quest” and “The Princess Bride” get it right, while recent spoofs like “Epic Movie” get it horribly wrong.  Do you have to love the genre to laugh at it?

Notes: I dunno. I’m not very funny.

Sat 14:00 @ P-521B
John Scalzi Kaffeklatsch

Notes: Get up close and personal with me! John Scalzi! This is one of those things you’ll have to sign up for, so don’t forget to do so. They won’t just let you slide through the door.

Sun 9:00 @ P-512CG
How Not to be a Jerk Online
Catherynne Valente, Kate Nepveu, John Scalzi, Michelle Kendall

Is there an equivalent of Miss Manners for this modern age? How to avoid flamewars and actually learn something.

Notes: There is irony in the fact I’m the moderator of this particular panel. That said, these are really excellent co-panelists, so my plan is to let them do most of the talking.

Sun 11:00 @ P-516D
Michael Jackson’s THRILLER: SF Culture Landmark
Nora K. Jemisin, Stephen H. Segal, John Scalzi

In 1983, Michael Jackson’s THRILLER video gave us lycanthropic romance, zombie dancers, and state-of-the-art special effects — not to mention Vincent Price reciting graveyard poetry. How did this watershed television moment set the stage for the next 25 years worth of SF/pop music/pop culture crossovers, from Jackson’s own subsequent oeuvre through Rob Zombie and beyond?

Notes: They’ve scheduled this for 90 minutes, which I think is a bit optimistic. Also, Melissa Auf der Maur was originally supposed to be on it. I’m very sad she appears not to be on the panel anymore because ZOMG I have such a crush. But I guess 90 minutes of me making cow eyes at her wouldn’t be entertaining for anyone else.

Sun 12:30 @ P-512CG
Is Privacy a Thing of the Past?
Jason Bourget, Steven R. Boyett, John Scalzi

Governments spy on us, we photograph police officers, and our children broadcast their sex lives on the internet. Does privacy matter any more? What is it for?

Notes: While I’m sure this will be an interesting and enlightening panel, I’m mostly just chuffed that I’m going to meet Steven R. Boyett, whose novel Ariel I am a huge fan of. Yes, I’m a fan boy. Sue me.

Sun 17:00 @ P-517D
The New Space Opera 2
Session ID:  1702

Meet the editors and authors of both the first and second The New Space Opera anthologies.  Jonathan Strahan, Gardner Dozois and Tom Clegg will attend the entire event and will be available for autographing.  Other New Space Opera writers may drop by.

Notes: I’m going to try to swing by this, but I’ll note it’s just a couple of hours before the Hugo ceremony and I may be a big bundle of twitch. In which case I may just stay in my hotel room and shiver. Call it 50/50.

Beyond these scheduled events, I’m likely also to do a stint hanging out at the SFWA table as well as attending some of the various publisher’s parties, and of course I’ll also be wandering about aimlessly throughout the Worldcon. If you see me, please feel free to say hello.

I’ll note updates to this as they come.

I think this is going to be a very cool Worldcon.

Your Anticipation Schedule (as of 7/18/09):

When: Thu 14:00
Location:  P-524B
Title:  Hollywood’s Favorite SF Writer
Session ID:  392
All Participants:  David Weingart, Jason Bourget, Lou Anders, John
Scalzi, Lenny Bailes
Moderator:  Lou Anders
Description:  Forty years ago it might have been Jules Verne or H. G.
Wells.  Today it’s the late Philip K. Dick who died before the release
of “Blade Runner,” based on his “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”
Since then we’re seen “Minority Report,” “Total Recall,” “Next,”
“Screamers,” “Imposter,” “Paycheck” and “A Scanner Darkly.”  More are
on the way.  Why has Hollywood embraced PKD even as they ignore other
giants on the bookshelf?  Which of the films have been most
successful?  Most faithful?

Duration:  1:30 hrs:min
Language:  English
Track: Media
AV/Internet request:  None

When: Fri 12:00
Location:  Other
Title:  John Scalzi Signing
Session ID:  1479
All Participants:  John Scalzi
Moderator:  <Not Available>
Description:  John Scalzi Signing
Duration:  0:30 hrs:min
Language:  English
Track: Autographs
AV/Internet request:  None

When: Fri 12:30
Location:  P-512AE
Title:  Author Reading: Hugo Nominated Non-Fiction
Session ID:  245
All Participants:  Farah Mendlesohn, Paul Kincaid, John Scalzi
Moderator:  <Not Available>
Description:  John Scalzi; Paul Kincaid; Farah Mendlesohn read from
their nominated works.
Duration:  1:00 hrs:min
Language:  English
Track: Reading
AV/Internet request:  None

When: Fri 20:00
Location:  P-517D
Title:  Singles Meet-and-Greet
Session ID:  112
All Participants:  Eva Whitley, John Scalzi
Moderator:  Eva Whitley
Description:  A one-evening mini-relaxacon where single con-goers can
meet and get acquainted in a no-pressure setting, hosted by Eva
Whitely and John Scalzi.

Duration:  1:00 hrs:min
Language:  English
Track: The Light Programme
AV/Internet request:  None

When: Sat 10:00
Location:  P-512AE
Title:  Author Reading
Session ID:  818
All Participants:  Jon Courtenay Grimwood, John Scalzi, Peter Watts
Moderator:  <Not Available>
Description:  John Scalzi; Jon Courtenay Grimwood; Peter Watts
Duration:  1:00 hrs:min
Language:  English
Track: Reading
AV/Internet request:  None

When: Sat 11:00
Location:  P-524B
Title:  Abby Normal: Comedy and SF
Session ID:  388
All Participants:  James Zavaglia, Joe Pearce, John Scalzi
Moderator:  James Zavaglia
Description:  The 35th anniversary of the Mel Brooks spoof “Young
Frankenstein” is a good excuse to look at movies that treat
science-fiction, fantasy and horror not with reverence but for laughs.
How difficult is it to balance the genre with the comedy?  Movies
like “Galaxy Quest” and “The Princess Bride” get it right, while
recent spoofs like “Epic Movie” get it horribly wrong.  Do you have to
love the genre to laugh at it?

Duration:  1:00 hrs:min
Language:  English
Track: Media
AV/Internet request:  None

When: Sat 14:00
Location:  P-521B
Title:  John Scalzi
Session ID:  1060
All Participants:  John Scalzi
Moderator:  <Not Available>
Description:  A chance to ask one of your favourite authors those
burning questions.
Duration:  1:00 hrs:min
Language:  English
Track: Kaffeeklatsch
AV/Internet request:  None

When: Sun 9:00
Location:  P-512CG
Title:  How Not to be a Jerk Online
Session ID:  930
All Participants:  Catherynne Valente, Kate Nepveu, John Scalzi,
Michelle Kendall
Moderator:  Yourself
Description:  Is there an equivalent of Miss Manners for this modern
age? How to avoid flamewars and actually learn something.
Duration:  1:00 hrs:min
Language:  English
Track: Human Culture
AV/Internet request:  None

When: Sun 11:00
Location:  P-516D
Title:  Michael Jackson’s THRILLER: SF Culture Landmark
Session ID:  1564
All Participants:  Nora K. Jemisin, Stephen H. Segal, John Scalzi
Moderator:  Stephen H. Segal
Description:  In 1983, Michael Jackson’s THRILLER video gave us
lycanthropic romance, zombie dancers, and state-of-the-art special
effects — not to mention Vincent Price reciting graveyard poetry. How
did this watershed television moment set the stage for the next 25
years worth of SF/pop music/pop culture crossovers, from Jackson’s own
subsequent oeuvre through Rob Zombie and beyond?
Duration:  1:30 hrs:min
Language:  English
Track: The Light Programme
AV/Internet request:  None

When: Sun 12:30
Location:  P-512CG
Title:  Is Privacy a Thing of the Past?
Session ID:  931
All Participants:  Jason Bourget, Steven R. Boyett, John Scalzi
Moderator:  Steven R. Boyett
Description:  Governments spy on us, we photograph police officers,
and our children broadcast their sex lives on the internet. Does
privacy matter any more? What is it for?
Duration:  1:30 hrs:min
Language:  English
Track: Human Culture
AV/Internet request:  None

When: Sun 14:00
Location:  P-517ABC
Title:  Hugo Award Rehearsal
Session ID:  1560
All Participants:  Neil Gaiman, Elisabeth Vonarburg, Taral Wayne, Tom
Doherty, Julie E. Czerneda, Alan F. Beck, Aliette de Bodard, Ann
VanderMeer, Beth Meacham, Bill Willingham, Cheryl Morgan, Christopher
J. Garcia, Cory Doctorow, Darlene Marshall, Dave Howell, David Anthony
Durham, David Hartwell, Elizabeth Bear, Ellen Datlow, Emma Hawkes,
Farah Mendlesohn, Gord Sellar, Gordon Van Gelder, Guy H. Lillian III,
Jay Lake, John Helfers, John Kessel, Jonathan Strahan, Karl Schroeder,
Kathryn Cramer, Kevin J. Maroney, Kij Johnson, Lillian Stewart Carl,
Lou Anders, Mary Robinette Kowal, Mike Resnick, Nancy Kress, Neil
Clarke, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Paul Cornell, Paul Kincaid, Rev. Randy
Smith, Sean Wallace, Stephen H. Segal, Yves Meynard, Steve Green,
Steven H Silver, Sue Mason, Tony Pi, Claude Lalumière, Mike Glyer,
John Hertz, John Scalzi, Stanley Schmidt, Charles Stross, John
Picacio, Frank Wu, Sheila Williams, Felix Gilman, Ginjer Buchanan,
LeAmber Kinsley, Paolo Bacigalupi, Pia Guerra, Tobias Buckell
Moderator:  <Not Available>
Description:  Hugo Award Rehearsal
Duration:  2:00 hrs:min
Language:  English
Track: Event
AV/Internet request:  None
Notes:  Each presenter and nominee should drop by for about 10 minutes
between 2 and 4 Sunday afternoon to see the layout of the stage.

When: Sun 17:00
Location:  P-517D
Title:  The New Space Opera 2
Session ID:  1702
All Participants:  Bill Willingham, Cory Doctorow, James Patrick
Kelly, Jay Lake, John C. Wright, Jonathan Strahan, Mike Resnick,
Robert Charles Wilson, Robert Silverberg, Walter Jon Williams, Tom
Clegg, John Scalzi, Peter Watts, Gardner Dozois
Moderator:  <Not Available>
Description:  Meet the editors and authors of both the first and
second The New
Space Opera anthologies.  Jonathan Strahan, Gardner Dozois and Tom
Clegg will attend the entire event and will be available for
autographing.  Other New Space Opera writers may drop by
Duration:  1:00 hrs:min
Language:  Bilingual
Track: Event
AV/Internet request:  None
Notes:  This is an informal event for most people related to The New
Space Opera book.  Jonathan Strahan, Gardner Dozois and Tom Clegg
should be there at 5pm, this is a “drop-by” event for the remaining
writers.

When: Sun 18:00
Location:  P-710A
Title:  Hugo Awards Reception
Session ID:  10
All Participants:  Neil Gaiman, Elisabeth Vonarburg, Taral Wayne, Tom
Doherty, Julie E. Czerneda, Alan F. Beck, Aliette de Bodard, Ann
VanderMeer, Beth Meacham, Bill Willingham, Cheryl Morgan, Christopher
J. Garcia, Cory Doctorow, Darlene Marshall, Dave Howell, David Anthony
Durham, David Hartwell, Elizabeth Bear, Ellen Datlow, Emma Hawkes,
Farah Mendlesohn, Gord Sellar, Gordon Van Gelder, Guy H. Lillian III,
Jay Lake, John Helfers, John Kessel, Jonathan Strahan, Karl Schroeder,
Kathryn Cramer, Kevin J. Maroney, Kij Johnson, Lillian Stewart Carl,
Lou Anders, Mary Robinette Kowal, Mike Resnick, Nancy Kress, Neil
Clarke, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Paul Cornell, Paul Kincaid, Rev. Randy
Smith, Sean Wallace, Stephen H. Segal, Yves Meynard, Steve Green,
Steven H Silver, Sue Mason, Tony Pi, Claude Lalumière, Mike Glyer,
John Hertz, John Scalzi, Stanley Schmidt, Charles Stross, John
Picacio, Frank Wu, Sheila Williams, Felix Gilman, Ginjer Buchanan,
LeAmber Kinsley, Paolo Bacigalupi, Pia Guerra, Tobias Buckell
Moderator:  <Not Available>
Description:  Reception for the Hugo award nominees, presenters and
guests
Duration:  2:00 hrs:min
Language:  English
Track: Event
AV/Internet request:  None

And Now, the Last Post About the New Computer For a While

Because I figure you’re all bored with it by now.

For those asking from whence the computer came, I bought it from IBuyPower.com. More specifically, it’s their Paladin XLC V2 computer, with some minor customizations. I bought it as a reward for finishing That Project I Can’t Tell You About Yet, and also (and as it turns out, presciently) because I figured the previous desktop was getting on in years and it was time to get a new one.

Aside from the issue of the hard drive damaged during shipping, everything about the computer is groovy, and when I contacted IBuyPower about the hard drive, they pretty rapidly made it right and shipped me a replacement without waiting for me to return the damaged one, which was convenient for me. So despite the damage my overall experience with IBuyPower has been positive so far. We’ll see if any additional problems crop up, but quite obviously I’m hoping not. Meanwhile the drive that is functioning is a 1TB drive, and I have a 1.5TB outboard archive drive, so I’m not exactly hard up for space at the moment.

And yes, the gameplay on the new computer is sweet like honey. That’s all I’m going to say about that. I will say that the computer is actually surprisingly quiet despite having two huge fans (it’s also liquid cooled). I can hear it if I pay attention but it doesn’t really impinge on my consciousness otherwise. I can’t complain about that.

Someone asked what I had named the computer; its name is “Mencken 7,” which as you may expect means it’s the seventh desktop I’ve had; I think the first Mencken was a Mac Plus 1MB rather some years ago, although I won’t swear to that. I name the desktops “Mencken”; the laptops are “Parker,” as in Dorothy (I’m up to Parker 4); when I got the netbook, I inaugurated the “Heinlein” naming convention, henceforth to be given to computers smaller than standard laptop. Why yes, I am a big fat geek.

And that’s the new computer.