Yearly Archives: 2010

Just Arrived, 12/31/10

It’s the last Just Arrived of the year! In order of me grabbing them from the pile:

*Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love, Andrew Shaffer (Harper Perennial): A slim nonfiction book which assures you that all the great philosophers couldn’t get dates, either — or, in the case of Rousseau, got off on flashing women in alleyways. Oh, Rousseau. So nasty, brutish and short, you are. This one is out on January 4.

* Counterfeit Magic, Kelley Armstrong (Subterranean Press): A new novella set in the world of Armstrong’s popular books Dime Store Magic and Industrial Magic. It involves a supernatural “fight club” scenario. I am Jack’s lycanthropy! Out now.

* The Running Dream, Wendelin Van Draanen (Knopf): A teenager track star has to reassess her life when an accident causes her to lose a leg. This YA is out on January 11, and Van Draanen will be contributing a Big Idea piece around the same time.

* Ghost Country, Patrick Lee (Harper): Lee’s follow up to his bestseller The Breach features his heroes racing to avoid an apocalypse that will end with billions dead (and, one assumes, the survivors severely inconvenienced). This out came out last Tuesday.

* Demonstorm, James Barclay (Pyr): The third book of the Legends of the Raven series, in which we learn that just because you’ve won a great victory doesn’t mean your enemies won’t still try to get at you. Enemies, they’re persistent that way. Also out January 4.

* The Company Articles of Edward Teach, Thoraiya Dyer/Angaelian Apocalypse, Matthew Chrulew (Twelfth Planet Press): Ooooooh, look. This is paperback done in classic “Ace Double” style, for which I have a constitutional weakness. And one is time-travel pirate story, and the other has Jesus in a flying saucer! This is out — in Australia, although the publisher will send it to you if you live elsewhere in the world.

* Eternal Prey: The Gods of the Night, Nina Bangs (Avon): It’s predators versus vampires, and no, not the predators from the science fiction movies, ancient mystical predators that live in the souls of certain humans. I’ve looked into my own soul and found an ancient squirrel. I am disappointed in myself. This came out on Tuesday.

* Citadel, John Ringo (Baen): The follow-on to Live Free or Die has humans squaring off against various aliens who are just plain pissing them off. Because this is a John Ringo book, and that’s what they do. One day John Ringo will write a delightful, delicate romantic comedy and heads will explode. But not today, or on January 4, which is when this one comes out.

* Machine of Death, edited by Ryan North, Matthew Bennardo & David Maliki (Bearstache Books): The conceit of this anthology is that the people in the various stories know how (but not when) they are going to die. The deaths range from “Cancer” to “Flaming Marshmallow.” I don’t think I would like to die from the latter, or indeed by any variant of a marshmallow. And if I did, I would expect the survivors to lie. Contributors include my old college pal Erin McKean, “Yahtzee” Croshaw, Gord Sellar and Randall Munroe. Out now.

I have more books in the pile but they’re just going to have to wait until 2011, I’m afraid.

My 2010 in Review

It’s been an interesting year. Some highlights, in no particular order:

1. Being elected President of SFWA and working with the current board of directors. I’ve largely kept to my self-imposed rule of not speaking about my presidential-related activities here, as a way to keep my personal views and organizational responsibilities clearly separate in the public eye. But I don’t think it’s out of line to say publicly that I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate as SFWA president to work with the current board of SFWA officers. They’re smart, committed, competent and engaged. As president, I’m in many ways the public face of the organization, but as president I can tell you that nothing gets done without good people on the board. I want to make sure you all know how much I appreciate the people I get to work with on SFWA matters.

2. Putting together the Clash of the Geeks project. Because, dude, it was totally ridiculous, and ridiculously fun, and we ended up raising a huge amount of money to help folks who suffer from Lupus. It’s easy to make the joke, per House, that “it’s never Lupus,” but House is fictional, and out in the real world, sometimes it is Lupus, and the folks who suffer from it could use a little help. It was nice to help, and nice to work with the talented people who contributed to it and put it together. And I thank each of you who downloaded our ridiculous thing and then donated a little, too. You still can, incidentally — download and donate. Just in case you haven’t, yet. It’s still tax deductible for 2010! Hint, hint.

3. My trip to Australia. It was the first time I’ve been to Australia, but I would love to go back at some hopefully-not-too-distant point in time, and this time spend more than a week.

4. Being married for fifteen years. Seriously, man. How lucky am I.

5. The general positive response to The God Engines. Getting Hugo and Nebula nods (not to mention pretty good sales numbers) for something that is entirely different from what I usually write is a very nice feeling. And I was delighted when people sent me e-mail which went “I just read The God Engines. Do you need a hug?” Thanks, folks, I’m fine.

6. My guest star appearance at the Minneapolis w00tstock. Because I’m a nerd and a ham!

7. Losing weight and becoming healthier. It does actually make a difference in how I feel about myself.

And a couple of things on the other side of the scale:

1. Kodi passing away. It’s a terrible thing to lose your dog.

2. Stargate: Universe being canceled. Sad for me, more sad for others, and especially sad when you think of the stories that Universe had yet to tell.

3. Doing things I can’t tell people about. This isn’t exactly a negative — and you’ll understand why when I can tell you about the things I’ve been doing — but it is more than a little frustrating. From all outside appearances, my 2010 creative output has been fairly small: A few short stories and editing Clash of the Geeks. But in fact I’ve been busily plugging away at a number of things, which have made me really happy, work-wise. It’s just when people ask, I can’t specify, which I suspect sounds like me saying “I’ve done nothing all year but kill virtual zombies.” Honestly, I didn’t just kill zombies. Be that as it may, to the extent I do any new year’s resolutions at all, my resolution for 2011 is to work on a whole more writing. You’ve already seen my intended writing schedule.

But overall, on a personal level, the good of 2010 more than outweighed the bad, and I’m looking forward to seeing what 2011 brings.

To Avoid the Inevitable Onslaught of People Sending it To Me

Yes, I’ve seen this:

Thoughts:

1. Could be more tightly edited and better lit;

2. Kind of funny, but also kind of mean.

And you say, but, John, you’re the one who tells teenagers their writing sucks. Well, yes, I do. But I don’t do it to get them to stop writing. I do it to assure them it’s part of the process every writer goes through, and if they keep at it they’ll get better.

Mind you, I don’t actually think this is intended to dissuade teens from writing, or that it would stop any even if it were intended to do so. Honestly, teens will keep writing just to show you. And good for them.

It is a reminder to all and sundry that a day job is not the worst thing in the world for a writer, however. Just say it’s part of cultivating “life experience.” That is an excellent excuse, to go along with your health benefits.

The Joys of Owning a Dog

Came down to the kitchen this morning and found the trash formerly in the trash can comprehensively distributed across (and into) the kitchen rug, in a manner that clearly suggests a dog working her way through the trash to get to the tiny bit of roast gristle somewhere down at the bottom of the can. This is what we get for not putting the trash can back under the sink, which typically thwarts the dog from trash-grazing due to her lack of opposable thumbs. So while the dog is guilty guilty guilty, it’s hard to blame her too much. And to her defense, when I asked her to explain her thinking, she gave every appearance of being sorry, or of at least faking being sorry.

And in any event, she’s was not the only malfeasant, as the hairball I also found in the kitchen, flecked with green foil, suggests. Having three cats makes that one a little harder to pin on any one cat, however. Thus we see the power in numbers.

The rug, incidentally, totally trashed, pun intended. Rather than trying to clean out the mashed potatoes, bananas and beef grease among other horrible things, I rolled the whole thing up into a large, green trash burrito and hauled it off to the trash bin outside, which is dog proof and laughs off raccoons too.

I did take a picture of the carnage. I’m not posting it. I don’t want to the Internets to judge me on my trash. Also, Krissy would murder me. One of these is more motivating than the other, I admit.

Note to John Seavey

Hey, John:

I did, in fact, see your blog entry called John Scalzi and the Myth of Inerrancy, which was a rebuttal on my column on The Lie of Star Wars as Entertainment. I tried to leave a long comment about it on your own site, but inasmuch as the Blogger comment tool appears buggier than an ant farm, it doesn’t appear that it took, and I don’t want to keep trying to work with it, only to end up looking like a deranged, incompetent spammer when/if multiple instances of the same comment show up in the comment queue. So I’ll just leave it here and assume you will find it in the fullness of time. It’s below.

You write:

Scalzi’s basic assertion, for those of you who couldn’t be bothered to follow the link, is that the reason the prequels weren’t any good… is that Lucas doesn’t actually have any talent as a film-maker

Well, no, that’s completely incorrect. Here’s what I think of Lucas as a filmmaker, which is detailed in the entry immediately following the one you link to:

I’ve long and publicly said that I believe he’s unquestionably the most significant filmmaker of the last 30 years and possibly ever, because of what he’s done for the technical aspects of filmmaking. Special effects, sound production, computer graphics, film editing, post-production, digital filmmaking — basically if there’s a filmmaking process around, there’s a damn fine chance that Lucasfilm or one of its subsidiaries or spinoffs was a pioneer in it or refined the process substantially. We watch film the way we do because of George Lucas, end of story, period. The guy’s a genius, or knows how to hire them, which is almost as good. Indeed, the only two aspects of filmmaking where he falls down on the job are writing and directing, which is ironic (and not only because he has two Oscar nominations for screenwriting, and another two for directing). But, you know what? No one’s good at everything.

Likewise, you both alter without notice and misattribute the subject for the following:

anything good in the movies is either (to quote Scalzi) ‘unintentional, achieved through special effects, or is the work of hired guns, notably Lawrence Kasdan and Leigh Brackett’.

The full quote, including what it refers to, is:

Now that the magnum opus of the Star Wars cycle is done, we can see that any entertainment value of the series is either unintentional (Lucas couldn’t suck the pure entertainment value out of his pastiche sources), achieved through special effects, or is the work of hired guns, notably Lawrence Kasdan and Leigh Brackett (those two wrote The Empire Strikes Back, the only movie in the series that has a script that evidences much in the way of wit, much less dialogue that ranks above serviceable. Kasdan and Brackett were clearly attempting to entertain as well as serve the mythology, showing it is possible to do both).

The argument is in fact not whether Lucas is a good filmmaker (he is, albeit better at some things than others) or whether he’s responsible for what is good in the Star Wars series. The argument is whether the Star Wars films should be considered as “entertainment,” and whether what is entertaining about the series is the work of Lucas himself or those he’s hired, whose sensibilities, as I have argued, are more attuned toward what is actually entertaining.

Because you appear to have fundamentally misapprehended what is actually being discussed in the essay, you end up making arguments that are aside the point of the essay and/or are points I find entirely unobjectionable.

For example, the point you make about Lucas ultimately being responsible for the final form of Empire is obvious; by that time he had final cut on the series. Kershner, Kasdan and Brackett (among the other filmmakers involved in the film) didn’t somehow sneak Empire past Lucas; rather they did what Lucas wanted and also contributed their own sensibilities as entertainers to the work. The argument is not that Lucas objects to the films being conventionally entertaining, rather that it’s not his goal. If others helping him make the film can manage it, great, as long as his own goals are achieved. If not, oh well.

On a side note, your smack on Empire director Irwin Kershner is a bit uninformed. When Kershner took the Empire gig he was a well-regarded director in Hollywood, both critically (for films like Loving) and commercially (Eyes of Laura Mars). For television he directed Raid on Entebbe, which garnered him an Emmy award nomination for Best Director.

To sum up, it does appear you’re making an argument countering an argument I did not actually make.

Science Fiction and Movie Studios

Today’s Filmcritic.com column is the last one of 2010, and in it I look at how well science fiction has done for the major film studios by charting how many of each studio’s domestic top ten-grossing films are from the science fiction genre. The answer: Probably more than you think — but not for every studio. To get all the details, click through to the column. And as always, leave your own comments and thoughts there.

A Reminder to Authors About Blurbs

Authors:

Please, if you’re thinking of asking me to blurb your work, take a look at my blurb policy, which is available here, and is linked off the front page of Whatever (as well as every other page on the WordPress install).

I mention it because I’ve gotten several direct requests for blurbs from authors recently, and as noted in the policy, I really do insist on blurb requests coming from editors/publishers rather than directly from authors. This is not only to avoid the awkward thing of possibly telling someone, “Dude, I don’t like your book enough to blurb it,” but also the separate-but-still-awkward thing of saying to an author, “Dude, I did want to blurb your book, but I lost track of time and didn’t get the blurb over to your editor in time.” So I just say “no” up front and have done with it.

If it goes through the editor/publisher, on the other hand, the author never has to know of my lack of enthusiasm/lack of basic organizational competence. And, you know. I prefer that.

Yes, this is a totally self-interested policy, and quite possibly it makes me look a bit like a dick. You’re asking for a blurb; I’m allowed to set conditions for my participation. These are my conditions, and I feel I’ve done a reasonable amount to make those conditions easy to find.

So, again, please, read the policy before you ask me to blurb your work. Thank you.

Some Things I’m Likely to Do in 2011

Yesterday I posted an entry on some things I’d like to do, creatively speaking, and it appears to have thrown at least a couple of people into a concern spiral that I was leaving science fiction forever. Relax, folks. As noted in the entry, those things were aspirational and not officially on the schedule. What is on the schedule for me for 2011? Well, at the moment we have the following.

1. A novel: Because wouldn’t you like to have one from me in 2012? Sure you would. No, I won’t give you any details about the novel, because that’s not how I roll. I will say, however, that it is not an OMW novel. Nor is it in the Android’s Dream universe. Again: Relax, folks, I’ll probably get back to both at some point. I figure you’ll like where I’m taking you, however. And yes, it will be science fiction.

2. A novella: Because I like the length and I have a story I think will fit the length. As with the novel, no additional information yet.

3. A SUPER SEEKRIT PROJECT: I can tell you nothing about this other than it does exist, I’ve been working on it for some time and when you find out about it your head will explode from the coolness of it. Don’t bother trying to fish for clues in the comments, I really cannot tell you anything about it now.

4. Book tour: I will wander the length and breadth of the land, promoting Fuzzy Nation. We’re still scheduling dates and places. Obviously I will tell you more about that when it happens.

5. Teaching at Clarion: That will be in July. If you’re an aspiring writer interested in science fiction and fantasy, there’s still time to apply.

In addition, I will continue to be president of SFWA for at least half the year, which will also be keeping me busy in a number of ways. I also will be doing other writing, including my Filmcritic.com column and of course my usual blatheration here. And, I’ll be GoH at two science fiction conventions and visiting at least couple others.

So in all, 2011 is already pretty well scheduled out — enough so that I’m already scheduling 2012. It’s nice to be busy.

Some Things I’d Like to Do

The end of the year is not a bad time to think about some of the things one would like to try one’s hand at moving forward. And to that end, here are some things I’ve been thinking about doing at some point in the future. Note that this is not a list of things I am making a resolution to do, or things I necessarily have planned to do in the next year (and yes, I have things planned for the next year). It’s just a list of stuff that I’d like to get around to before I, you know, am hit by a bus and/or get bored with creating stuff and just pack it all in to do nothing but watch movies on Netflix for the rest of my life.

In no particular order:

1. Write a romantic comedy. Because I like romantic comedies; probably my favorite movie of all time is The Philadelphia Story, which is a romantic comedy, and that’s followed closely by Tootsie, which is also a romantic comedy, with cross dressing. The best romantic comedies have a wit and crackle to their dialogue that I love; it’s people sizing each other up as people and then falling in love (or back in love, as the plot may require). It seems like something that wouldn’t be entirely outside my range of writing competence, given how I write characters and dialogue. So it’s very high on my list of things to try.

Somewhat related to this:

2. Write a script. One of the reasons I was so delighted to be able to work on Stargate: Universe for the last two years is that in addition to everything else it was, it was a screen writing school for me. I was paid to look at scripts, see how they work and how they function, and learn about the form and its uses. Before I started working on SG:U I would have been totally at a loss on how to begin writing a script. Today, I’m not going to claim that any script I would write would be good, but at the very least it would recognizably be a script.

In the case of writing a script I can see myself doing what I did when I first tried writing a novel, which is to do a “practice” one first — just thinking up some story I’m not hugely mentally invested and then going off and writing and not worrying if it’s worth reading by anyone else, but rather just doing it to learn what I need to do better the next time. It worked reasonably well with the novels. I don’t imagine script writing would become anything more than a sideline to what I do — the barrier to getting a screenplay produced is massively higher than it is for publishing a novel — but it would still be fun to try it and see what I think of the form. Thanks, SG:U.

3. Put together some more music. This would definitely be a hobby-level sort of thing. But you know what? I enjoyed putting together Music for Headphones back in the day, simply because it was enjoyable to do, and also because it gave me a no-pressure creative outlet. No one expects me to make music worth listening to, or worth buying, so if I never do there’s no problem there. I’m a big believer in monetizing one’s enthusiasms — it’s how I’ve made a living for as long as I’ve made a living — but somewhere along the way I learned that you don’t have to make an attempt to monetize everything you like to do. Sometimes you just do it because you like it and that’s that.

4. Write more non-fiction. If one studies my bibliography, one sees that I’ve written nearly as many non-fiction books as novels, although of course recently it’s been the fiction that’s gotten the most attention, and the last two non-fiction books (notwithstanding a second edition of my astronomy book) were compilations of entries here. I’d like to write another purpose-built non-fiction book (i.e., one with its own idea, with contents not previously published elsewhere) as much to keep that part of my brain engaged as anything else. This, at least, is something I know I can do, since I’ve done it before.

5. Take another stab at a YA novel. A couple of years ago I spent a fair amount of time developing a YA series for a publisher only to have the project fall apart in the contract negotiation phase of things. This was a frustrating development, as you might imagine, especially since I think that project was in fact very cool (the project fell apart over the money, not the idea). Since that time it’s been on the back burner simply because I’ve had other things to work on, but I think at some point in the near future I may put that project or another YA idea out on the market and see what it does. YA has some impressive writers in it, and it would be nice to have something of mine along their works.

So those are some of the things I’m thinking about doing. Will any of them come to pass? We’ll see. As I said, no timetable on these. They’ll happen or they won’t. But I think I’d enjoy each.

The Year in Pets

Ghlaghghee gazes upon 2010, which as you may remember was a fairly significant one for the pets. On the dog front we mourned the passing of Kodi and welcomed Daisy. The roster of cats remained the same, however, for which we are thankful. To help usher out 2010, here’s a pet retrospective for the year.

Plus, for those of you who desire total cat overload, a cautionary tale on the dangers of ‘nip addiction.

There, that should keep you through to January, I think.

A Cr-48 Update

Because I know you folks are passionately interested, especially on Christmas Day, some further thoughts on working with the Cr-48 and the Chrome OS:

* The Cr-48 generally continues to be a pretty nifty little computer, although it is not without its flaws. The flaw I’ve noticed the most are the genuinely terrible track pad, with its awful right click mechanism; even with the sensitivity dialed down to its lowest setting, it’s a 50/50 chance of getting the two-finger right click to work. This is apparently something lots of people hate about the Cr-48, so it’s nice to know it’s not just me a case of me being physically incompetent. When I use the computer for any extended period of time I plug in a mouse. Less annoying but still noticeable is the automatic screen brightening, which is a good idea in theory but which in practice is a bit twitchy. If I have a light behind me and I move my head, the screen brightness spasms. I’ll look to see if I can fiddle with that.

* On the software side I’m not really having any problems in terms of daily use. I used the Cr-48 to write the two “interviews” I did last week (with the innkeeper and the Christmas Bunny), and I found it useful, not because of Google Docs specifically but because the computer isn’t all cluttered up with crap and it’s easier not to get distracted. I then cut and pasted the interviews into the blog tool; again, no problems. I’ve also been carrying around the laptop for casual Web browsing and reading, and perhaps not entirely unexpectedly it does just fine with that, with the caveat of the annoying right-click thing.

I suppose if I were trying to use the Cr-48 for more substantial things I would run into more problems, but I’m not; I’m trying to figure out whether it’s because I just tend to spend most of my time doing low-impact things, Web and computing wise, or if it’s because I know the Cr-48 has limitations and just work inside of those. At some point I may try to stretch what I do with the thing, but for now, like I said, it’s working just fine for what I want to use it for.

Look! More Christmas Photos!

Because that’s how we roll, Christmas morning.

Athena hard at work at Christmas 2010: The Unwrapination.

One of Athena’s gifts. Her gifts parted out between geekish and stylish, because, you know. Look at her parents.

 

“Put down that camera and unwrap your presents.” I got a very nice coat with hat and gloves, the Autobiography of Mark Twain (which I bought for myself, but which Krissy wrapped when I wasn’t looking) and a Belgian Waffle maker. His name is Hans.

And of course it wouldn’t be Christmas if one didn’t spoil one’s dog!

The cats were also spoiled, with catnip-filled mice. Here is Lopsided Cat, who is, dude, so very high right now.

Happy Christmas!

Whatever Best of 2010

Zeus is correct: We’re getting to the point where the new year is starting to peek over the horizon. What better way to begin to take our leave of 2010, then, than by posting my annual retrospective of what I think have been the most interesting Whatever posts of year? Because, hey. You might have missed one of these.

Enjoy, and have a good Christmas Eve.

Seriously Annoying

Okay, WordPress users, a question for you: Can you think of any reason why WP would suddenly and randomly make the most recent posts disappear from the front page? The post isn’t deleted and is directly accessible, it just doesn’t show up on the front page, even if it was there before. It seems to be happening to me quite a lot over the last couple of days, and I know I didn’t press any “make most recent posts randomly disappear” button on the back end of this thing.

If anyone knows the secret to making this stop, I would be obliged. Thanks.