Monthly Archives: September 2009

11 Years

Look at that; another year down. Eleven years ago today I started writing on Whatever, and at the time I would probably not have expected that I would still be doing it in the far distant age of 2009, much less have become reasonably notable for it. But then, eleven years ago, I probably would not have expected that in 2009 I would be living in Ohio, either, or that my cat would be internationally famous because some idjit put bacon on her (which happened three years ago today, as it happens; my, how the time flies). Eleven years is a lot of time for the unexpected to occur.

I do occasionally wonder how long I will continue to write here. When it began, it was because I was killing time and hoping to write a newspaper column again; it really was a temporary sort of thing. But at the moment I have no intention of stopping writing here, even if I ever were to get another newspaper column at this point, which seems wildly unlikely, not only considering the current state of newspapers but because I don’t know that I would actually want to be that constrained; I doubt any newspaper in the land would let me write on as many subjects, and with the same tone, as I do here. Eleven years is a long enough time to make Whatever a true representation of me, and I’d be loath to leave it off.

That said, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to occasionally wanting to take a month or two (or twelve) off. Sometimes it’s a pain in the ass, and every once in a while the fact that people will send concerned e-mail if I don’t update every day stops being cute and actually becomes a little annoying. I can think of reasons to walk away and not look back. I think that’s healthy; it’s when I feel that I couldn’t that it would start to be a problem. And of course I have taken months off before, and undoubtedly will again.

But not this month, I think. Right now, I’m enjoying Whatever a lot, and having fun with it and with most of you who read the site. It is still a little mindboggling to consider that tens of thousands of people pop by on a daily basis to read me blather on, and to read the words of their fellow readers in the comments. I sometimes wonder what I look like to the rest of you, who basically only know me from these words; I occasionally try to look at the site like I’m seeing it for the first time, and try to imagine what I imagine the person putting it together is like. It’s an interesting exercise. I’m not sure I do it well. But it’s fun to try anyway.

In any event, on we go, into another year. Thank you all for reading and for making my words here a small and hopefully entertaining part of your life. I appreciate it, and you. Let’s keep at it.

Rationalizations Run Thick

Nick Mamatas, following the comment thread over at the Josh Olsen “I won’t read your script” Village Voice article, comes up with this whopper of a comment, from “Bierce_Bitchslap”:

There’s thousands of writers in America – especially in the fly-over states – who will never have a chance at getting prestige status in their niche of the professional writing industry. That doesn’t mean they aren’t good writers. It has far more to do with proximity than talent.

Oh, it’s true. This is why, from my compound in rural Ohio, I have never managed to sell a novel, or win an award, or show up on a bestseller list, or work on a television series. And if you think I have it rough, please spare a thought for that poor bastard Neil Gaiman, living as he does in the wilds outside Minneapolis. Why, that’s almost Canada. It’s a miracle he can feed his family anything other than the grubs he can pull out of tree bark.

Hey, writers! If you are looking for an outside rationalization to explain why you are not yet clutching an Oscar/Pulitzer/Hugo and a trophy spouse/groupie/willing goat, and give you the excuse you need to stop trying and retire to a life of bitterness/alcoholism/World of Warcraft, you will always find one, and it will always work. Whether it’s actually true is something else entirely. But, then rationalizations don’t have to be true, they just need to let you feel it’s not your fault you gave up.

And now I’m off for the rest of the day, to stew in my anger that Ohio is keeping me down.

Incidentally: The Best Song Ever to Feature a Member of Night Ranger

It’s this one.

Indeed, in the grand pantheon of Arena Ballads — of songs explicitly genetically designed to be played in front of 10,000 stoned denim-jacked blue collar joes and janes, each waving a lighter — this is one of The Great Ones, easily outranking “Sister Christian” — although not “Come Sail Away,” to name check the work of Tommy Shaw’s other band. The greatest of all Arena Ballads, of course, is “Don’t Stop Believin’,” and you know that for truth.

Discuss.

Night Ranger Winners!

As if anyone can actually “win” when Night Ranger is involved.

Nevertheless, the judges — me and Bill Schafer — have selected two winners from this week’s contest. That’s right! Two! Because we couldn’t decide between them.

They are:

Newberry:

And Pixelfish:

Yeah, you pretty much can’t beat those. So Newberry and Pixelfish, congratulations! Send along your physical addresses to me in e-mail, using the same e-mails you post comments from, and Subterranean Press will get them in the mail to you when they start shipping the book.

For everyone else, you have my thanks for you contributions. It made being clad in Night Ranger wear almost tolerable. Almost.

Name in Lights

So, a screen capture from the DVD I just finished watching:

Which is to say that yes, I have the series opener of Stargate: Universe in my grubby little hands at the moment. Which is making it very hard to type. Hold on, let me put it down. There we go.

And how is the series opener, you ask? Well, bearing in mind that per the screen credit above I am not exactly what you would call a disinterested observer, nevertheless I say to you that, yes, it is in fact pretty damn good. It’s smart, it’s tense, it has moments of humor, the actors are well-cast and perform admirably, and it looks really great. That’s all I’m going to say about it right now, because if I offered you plot spoilers, I’d be assassinated. And they would be right to do so. I will say that I can see the parts where my contribution is on the screen, but that you probably won’t, and that’s exactly how it should be, since my role is to help you get sucked in to what you’re watching. I think you will be.

In short, I’m happy to have my name on this, and I think that you’re going to want to clear out time on October 2nd to be near a television and watch it for yourself. I’m excited for you all to see it.

For those of you who want more on the season opener, the folks at io9 have gotten a look at it and have posted their observations as well. It’s also spoiler free.

The Guy’s Saying What I Said, Except About Screenplays

Hey, remember when I explained why I won’t read your unpublished work? Well, Oscar-nominated screenwriter Josh Olson is here to explain why he won’t read your screenplay. You will not be surprised to discover his reasons for not reading your screenplay are very very much like my reasons for not reading your unpublished work.

It should be noted the comments to the article are filled with people outraged that Olsen will not read screenplays. These people, generally speaking, do not appear to be professional writers.

Why Heckling The President During a Joint Session of Congress is Not the Smartest Thing You Can Do

Because it inspires people to send your likely 2010 Democratic opponent nearly $100,000 in contributions since the moment you opened your mouth. D’oh.

The funny thing: The amount contributed to Rob Miller went up $3,000 in the few minutes it took me to write up this entry. I suspect the amount will be well over $100k by the end of the day.

Once again: Well done, Joe Wilson. Well done, indeed.

Update, 6:30pm: Miller just passed the half million dollar mark in contributions. Damn, that’s a lot of money in less than 24 hours.

Ranking Trek Directors

Over at the AMC column this week, I’m ranking Star Trek directors, because someone asked me to, and taking requests is easier than coming up with topics on my own. Go, path of least resistance! And let me tell you, JJ Abrams (pictured above) isn’t the best Trek director. Not even close. Who is? Well, obviously, you’ll need to click through to find out. And be sure to leave comments arguing with me. Because I love that.

Here, Have a Place to Talk About That Other Obama Speech

You know. The one where he overthrew the capitalist system to give illegal immigrants federally subsided breast enhancements.

Oh, sorry, wrong universe. I mean, the one where he talked about health care.

Keep it mellow, don’t stab each other in the eyeballs, and remember that slapping down the “Obama = Socialist” card will get you laughed at or deleted as a troll.

I’ll post some thoughts in an update in a bit.

Update:

Shorter Barack Obama: Okay, kids, you’ve had your fun with the death panels and the socialism and the illegal immigrants. Now cut that shit out and let’s do this thing.

Which is I suspect most people wanted to hear from the man tonight. Obama does give off the vibe of the PE teacher who lets the kids horse around for the first five minutes of class but then lightly smacks them across the head to get them in line for calisthenics, and I get a sense that people respond to that. I also get a sense that people actually don’t mind listening to him discuss things at length, which is why addresses like this are really a good medium for him. People trust him to be able to hold a thought in his head.

As for what he outlined, I found it all reasonable, but then this isn’t a huge surprise, since Obama’s strategy here is “roll this sucker right down the middle of the road,” which is where I’m at on this. I’m perfectly good with keeping my current insurance and not having to worry about the company kicking my ass out if I get sick because I forgot to disclose I’m allergic to angora rabbits, I’m fine with insurance exchanges, and if it’s necessary I’m fine with some sort of public option for the poor bastards who can’t get insurance any other way. The one thing that twinged me was the “requiring coverage” thing, since I wonder how they’re going to enforce that with either the crazy compound types or (rather more relevantly) people like the Amish or Mennonites, who have religious objections to insurance. In the latter case, at least, there’s already been some discussion.

I do feel sorry for progressives who feel that Obama’s too eager to compromise on points they feel he doesn’t have to, but as noted before at a certain point I think it should have been obvious to everyone that Obama’s essentially centrist, and that his goal is to get the fundamental concept of universal coverage on the books now, and not worry about fiddly details that can be worried about later. I think Obama’s also aware that any GOP participation now on the legislation makes it harder for a potential future GOP majority to throw it out later. And so on.

To boil it down in sports terms, progressives want Obama to throw long bombs deep into enemy territory, and Obama’s content with a “three yards and a cloud of dust” strategy. My thought on it is: with past legislative victories, the dude’s made it clear he can put points on the board, so if I were on his team, I’d let him play the game how he wants to.

As for the Republicans, well, a handy tip: When the President of the United States is going out of his way to give you props in a joint address of Congress, having one of your number shout “you lie!” loud enough to get picked up on TV makes you look bad. Especially when, the president is in fact not lying about the thing he’s being accused of lying about (federal health care coverage for illegal immigrants). Which makes that particular representative (apparently Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina) look ignorant. I mean, really, Rep. Wilson; if you’re going to make an ass of yourself on the floor of the House, at least make an ass of yourself on a topic you’re accurate about.

On the other hand, Wilson’s just made himself into the dickhead poster boy of unthinking partisanship for the rest of the health care debate, and don’t think the people who want to get health care passed won’t exploit the hell out of it. So, you know. Well done, Rep. Wilson. Well done indeed.

And there you have it.

Also, the text of the speech.

That Obama Speech, or, Expunging the Stupid Use of Words

Wow, that was sure some socialist speech Obama gave yesterday, huh? I went to pick up Athena from school, and all the kids marched out of building, singing “The Internationale” and clutching copies of the children’s illustrated edition of Das Kapital, distributed by smiling members of Young People’s Socialist League. Truly, it’s a new day in America, comrades!

Alternately, Obama gave a pleasant, platitudinous and largely bland speech exhorting the kids to, you know, stay in school and study hard and respect their teachers, and everyone who got all wound up that the President of the United States would have the gall to address the nation’s school children when he’s a socialist now looks like a complete jackass.

To be sure, they looked like complete jackasses before the speech, but now that the man’s actually done the deed, people feel more comfortable saying so. One wonders why they felt they had to wait; perhaps they were expecting this least spontaneous of all recent presidents to have the head of Eugene Debs erupt from his collarbone, take control of his body, and snatch and bloodily consume members of the audience while howling about the Pullman Strike. It did not happen, unless the live television cameras of the liberal media were somehow able to mask the gory sight of Obama Possessed By Undead Eugene Debs feasting on the tender young bodies of our nation’s youth. WHICH THEY MIGHT HAVE.

Seriously now, how much longer do any of us have to pretend that the sort of people bleating about Our Socialist President aren’t, in fact, ignorant as chicken, or mad as hatters, or as madly ignorant as chicken hatters? I’ve already noted that we’re well past the point where anyone still barfing up the “Obama is a Socialist” meme deserves a “tool” sign over their head; I propose we go further and call them morons. Because, at this point, if you’re still calling the man a “socialist,” that’s what you are. Want to call Obama a Democrat? Well, that’s what he is. Want to call him a liberal? It’s not out of line to do so, although I suspect he’s closer to what we’d call moderate these days. Want to call him a progressive? Actual progressives will argue the point with you, but if you’re on the right, anything left of John McCain counts as progessive, so, fine.

Call Obama a socialist? You’re a fucking moron.

You know who don’t think Obama is a socialist? Socialists, that’s who. “We know, of course, that Obama is not a socialist, and that he is not a radical,” wrote Dave McReynolds, in the pages of The Socialist, which, if you don’t know, is the magazine of the Socialist Party USA, and McReynolds a two-time presidential candidate for that party. Yes, I know, it’s wacky to rely in this matter on the assessment of someone who is both a socialist and a Socialist, rather than, say, someone belonging to a tribe of political thinkers whose understanding of socialism is so screwed up that many of them apparently can’t tell the difference between socialism and fascism. But you know what, I think I’m going to do that anyway. Words actually mean things, and despite persistent attempts by many on the right to make it so, “socialism” does not mean either “any government activity that is not a tax cut or an attempt to kill swarthy people with weapons” or “whatever it is Obama happens to be doing at the moment.”

Now, I may not be able to do anything about anyone else tolerating the “Obama is a socialist” canard elsewhere, but I can do something about it here. So: Henceforth, anyone who comes around here blathering about how Obama is a socialist (or any of its various cognates) is signaling to me that they’re either ignorant or a troll. If it’s the former, I may give them a small bit of leeway to learn their terms; if it’s the latter, however, well then. They run the risk of what I do to trolls, which is that I delete them for trolling, and make fun of them while I do it.

This is not to say that one is no longer allowed to criticize Obama or his policies here — really, please do. Nor is it to say one can’t speak of (or criticize) socialism here. But playing the “Obama = socialist” card is your sign to me that in fact, you’re not serious, nor are you interested in the exchange of ideas — what you’re interested in doing is crapping out an idiotic talking point that has no basis in reality, because someone who is either ignorant or deceiving told you so, and you feel you must further spread the ignorance. And you know what? I don’t have time for that right now.

So, Obama opponents, either find a better and more accurate way here to voice your opposition to the president and his policies than diving for the “socialist” button, or run the risk of being expunged for being a moron, and having me laugh at you while I do it. I’m tired of it, here and everywhere else, but especially here. Please, Obama opponents, be smarter. The nation, its president, its people and its discourse, deserve better.

The Abject Holy Terror Of Night Ranger, or, a Contest

The video, I think, explains it all:

For reasons that are simply too terrifying to detail now, except to say DIE BILL SCHAFER DIE, I am cursed to wear this Night Ranger shirt for the rest of the day. The picture below explains how I feel about this:

It burns! It burns!

Nevertheless I must endure.

AND, this does offer me an opportunity to run a contest. If you would also like to illustrate the sort of existential pain I am going through at the moment, here is a green screen version of me terrified in my t-shirt, for your Photoshopping pleasure. Please do what you will to the image, and then link to your versions of me in Night Ranger T-Shirt Hell in the comment thread. I’ll pick the best, and the winner gets a Signed Limited Edition of The Last Colony, direct from Subterranean Press (who has a shipping department, i.e., you don’t have to rely on me to send it, i.e., it will actually get there). The contest runs through 11:59 (Eastern) Thursday evening, and I’ll announce the winner on Friday.

If you want to play but don’t want to use that picture, use any other picture you like, but your final image must include both me and Night Ranger in some way, shape or form. Yeah, the possibilities are endless, and unspeakable.

Good luck, have fun and in the meantime: The horror. THE HORROR.

This Was Made Existentially Funnier By the Fact I Was Drinking a Coke Zero When I Read It

Online comic Rocket Road Trip has been running a subplot in which I (or rather a slightly chunkier, flat-headed version of me) have been kidnapped by hobbits, who are trying to force me to join their Lord of the Rings musical. This is how they finally made me crack.

In other news it’s mildly odd being a fictional character in somebody’s Web comic. Amusing, but odd.

“Judge Sn Goes Golfing” Cover Art

Ladies and gentlemen, I consider this SUPER AWESOME:

Yes, the cover and interior illustrations of my upcoming signed chapbook “Judge Sn Goes Golfing” are by none other than Gahan Wilson. If you are not aware of who Gahan Wilson is, you have my pity, but this is easily corrected. Suffice to say that he’s one of the visual artists whose work I have always loved, and when Subterranean Press publisher Bill Schafer told me Wilson was doing the art, I giggled like a happy child for about a week. It’s really the perfect marriage of illustrator and story. I could not be more pleased. In fact, I’ll probably frame one of the chapbook covers and put it up on my wall. Because, dude. Gahan Wilson is illustrating my story. As I said: SUPER AWESOME.

The story’s not bad, either.

Various & Sundry, 9/4/09

Things and Stuff:

* This study suggests that (presumably, straight) men get so flummoxed in the presence of a pretty woman that they actually get appreciably stupider around them. Having watched men walk into walls craning their heads trying to get a look at my wife, this does not come as news to me. Nor am I immune to it; I think it partially explains why to date I have not won an argument with my wife (the other part is that she’s both smarter and more logical than I am, and we generally only have an argument of any sort after I have done something manifestly stupid. It’s really frustrating, it is). More generally, I’m aware that when I meet a pretty woman for the first time, my “showoff” gene expresses itself more than it usually does, and sometimes not to my advantage (the advantage specifically being “trying to show that I can interact with this woman in a rational manner”). I try to work on that.

* The New York Times uncovers the fact that people read on the subways. That’s some nice work there, Gray Lady. Less snarkily, one can either find it mildly depressing that the Times finds reading while commuting news-worthy, or can find it a vindication for one’s own bibliophilic lifestyle. Or alternately, just say, yeah, people read, that’s nice.

* If you are a reader (and if you’re reading here that’s a good guess), prepare to squee yourself with this photo montage of Neil Gaiman’s library shelves, in which it’s revealed that he probably has many more books than you, my friend. I don’t know that he has more books than me, but his aren’t splayed all over his office floor like mine are, and that I suppose that’s the major difference between me and him, other than, you know, numbers of awards and books sold and movies made and rock stars dated and hair. Which are minor things, really.

* Apparently many of the same people on the right who are losing their minds over health care are also currently losing their minds over the idea that Obama’s giving a speech aimed at school kids, because clearly the man is going to indoctrinate the children into his crazy socialist ways, and they’ll come home expecting the government to start providing communal services, and everyone knows that’s just the sort of thing we shouldn’t be teaching in our public schools.

Three things here. First, we’re definitely well past the point where anyone brandishing the word “socialist” for anything relating to Obama might as well have a blinking neon sign over their head that reads “tool.” Please, just stop. Second, anyone who thinks that school children would watch this upcoming speech with anything more than dutiful, glassy-eyed boredom has forgotten what it’s like to be a schoolkid being forced by adults to do things for incomprehensible reasons. I would be no more concerned about Obama indoctrinating kids with a televised speech aimed at them than I was when Bush did the same thing when he was in office; the kids will find it equally lame regardless of who is president.

Third, as it happens, I don’t want my kid watching the Obama speech in school either, not because our president will infect her with socialism, but because it’s going to be a bland, pointless time-waster and I’d rather have my kid spending time learning something.

* My pal Mary Robinette Kowal has a new short story up on Tor.com. Reading it will make you a better human being, I’m sure of it.

Author GoH at Phoenix Comicon; 2010 Appearance Plans in General

As noted by this tweet from the organizers, I will be author guest of honor at the 2010 Phoenix Comicon, in (wait for it… ) Phoenix, Arizona, over Memorial Day weekend (May 27 -30 for those of you not in the US). It should be a lot of fun. Their Twitter feed has the details on the rest of the guests, and the Web site apparently will be updated with the whole list on Friday morning.

This is also a fine time for me to note that aside from the Phoenix Comicon, I have no real plans to attend any other science fiction convention in 2010 as a working guest (i.e., doing panels and such). The reasons for this:

  • Travel, writing and other scheduling conflicts causing me to turn down invitations;
  • No new novels scheduled for publication in 2010;
  • A bit of burnout from having attended a dozen conventions in the last couple of years.

I am looking into scheduling a couple of non-con appearances, and we’re also hoping very much to get to AussieCon4 next year, because, hey, Australia. If we get there, it’s a pretty sure bet I’ll do panels, etc. But otherwise, barring an extraordinary change of circumstances that requires me to throw out my plans for next year and start over, this is pretty much it. So if you’d like to see me do my thing, Phoenix is the place you want to be in 2010.