Daily Archives: September 13, 2010

State of the Scalzi

Because I know you are all endlessly fascinated with the trivia of my personal physical and mental well-being, here’s all the latest on me that happened while I was away.

* Physically, on the positive side, I’m happy to say that weight loss thing I’ve been working on (detailed earlier here) is working; I’ve gone from about 185 pounds down to 172. I originally thought I had been starting at about 180, but I got a new digital scale which revealed my old analog scale was off by about five pounds. It was mildly depressing on a psychological level to discover I was five pounds more overweight than I thought I was, but on the other hand, it was also more motivation to pare off the pounds.

The weight loss adventure is in fact delightfully undramatic — I eat less (and better), I exercise more, I lose on average a pound a week, more or less — but I do suppose weight loss should be undramatic, all things considered. I figure I have about another ten pounds or so to go; hopefully I’ll get there before the month-long calorie-fest known as the holiday season. We shall see.

* On the negative side, physically speaking, I’d been noticing some soreness in my right hip that was above and beyond “flabby person who doesn’t exercise moves around and gets a pain” soreness. So I went and scheduled a physical, at which I learned that while generally speaking I am in inexplicably good physical condition for a slightly overweight dude who does almost no exercise, I also have a bit of osteoarthritis in my right hip.

And that’s when my youth ended and I knew I would die.

Well, no. It wasn’t as bad as all that. But on the other hand 41 is a little young for osteoarthritis, even the very minor case of it I am confronted with. It weirded me out for a couple of days, and also precipitated this conversation between me and my wife:

Me: So now my hip is always going to hurt just a little bit.

Wife: Poor baby.

Me: I’m a little depressed about this. I think I’ll have my mid-life crisis now.

Wife: You do that.

Me: So you don’t mind if I have an ill-advised fling with a 23-year-old.

Wife: Good luck with that.

It’s not true, in any event; my hip doesn’t always hurt a little bit. I have to kind of go out of my way to feel a twinge, a sort of rotation that is easily avoided most of the time (this did lead to me saying to my doctor “it hurts when I do this,” to which she replied “then don’t do that,” which just goes to show some jokes have a practical application). So far on a day-to-day basis it doesn’t present me with any major problems; hell, I went dancing for three hours non-stop when I was in Melbourne and the next day it was my muscles, not my hip, that were complaining. Be that as it may I will soon be scheduling an appointment with a physical therapist to find out what I need to do to care for and maintain the joint so it doesn’t get any worse any faster than it has to.

* Work-wise, as I noted before, my six-week break was quite productive, although it was largely productive on projects not related to book writing: I sent in notes to a whole batch of SG:U scripts, did my filmcritic.com column, worked with the SFWA board to pass some important stuff, collected stories and wrote my own for the Wheaton/Scalzi fanfic chapbook (about which I will have more details very soon), and did a big chunk of work on one of those secret projects that I can’t tell you about yet — which I still can’t tell you about yet, sorry, but when you do eventually find out what it is, oh man, you will totally think it’s cool. So I was busy.

* But, but, but… what about books? you ask, plaintively. Yes, well, don’t worry. When I wasn’t doing work I was thinking about what books I want to write and where they fit on my schedule. I am primarily a book writer; it’s what I’m best at and also what I enjoy doing the most. But I’m also — and gratefully — in a position where lots of interesting non-book-related projects are on my radar, and I want to be able to take advantage of those opportunities when they show up. So the real challenge for me these days is to build a schedule that allows me to write the books I want to write while still leaving me time to do these other things (and then, you know, sticking to that schedule, but let’s not get into that right this second).

The good news here is that during my break, I got myself a pretty good idea of the books I want to write over the next few years. Assuming that everything goes to plan (which is a big assumption; see the next paragraph), I’ll have books lined up through about 2017. The first of these, of course, will be Fuzzy Nation, which comes out next May, and you already know about that one. The rest you’ll learn about when I finish each particular book; I don’t find much value talking about these things until they’re done. I will say that I like the idea of having a vague idea of what I’ll be working on into the future; it gives my brain time to roll the stories around so that when I sit down to type them out I have some basic contours and idea to work with.

Now, bear in mind that as I write this, a few years ago I was absolutely sure my next big project was going to be a two-book science fiction series told as oral history, and even signed contracts to that effect, only to have Max Brooks come out with World War Z, and corner the market on science fictional oral histories. Two years ago, I was pretty damn certain that I’d be in the middle of a five-book YA series right about now, but then things fell apart when it came time to negotiate payment, so now that YA series lives in one of my office drawers. One year ago, Fuzzy Nation wasn’t on any publishing schedule anywhere, and now it is. So when I say to you that I have book plans that stretch out through 2017, that doesn’t mean any of it will actually happen. It just means I have plans. However, plans are useful. You at least have some idea which direction you’re going.

And again, if all goes to plan I will still have time in my schedule to do other things, either my own projects or the ones that pop up and get offered to me from time to time. And that is useful too, because you never know what’s going to come of that — see Fuzzy Nation as an example there. Basically, it’s nice to be able to say “I plan to do this, but if something else comes along, we’ll see what happens then.”

Annnnnd that’s where everything about me is at the moment.

My Big News: I’m Toastmaster of Chicon 7, the 2012 Worldcon

Some of you may be aware of my big news out of AussieCon4 (at which I had a lovely time, and about which I will discourse in an upcoming post), but in case you’re not, here it is:

I was offered, and have gleefully accepted, the position of Toastmaster of Chicon 7, the 2012 Worldcon in Chicago. It was announced at AussieCon4 a week ago, when Chicago won the 2012 Worldcon bid. At that time I was given the honor of announcing the other Chicon 7 Guests of Honor, who are: Mike Resnick, Author Guest of Honor; Rowena Morrill, Artist Guest of Honor; Peggy Rae Sapienza, Fan Guest of Honor; Jane Frank, Agent Guest of Honor; and Story Musgrave, our very special Astronaut Guest of Honor. It’s a hell of a lineup.

Being asked to be a Worldcon Toastmaster is a very cool thing. I’m sitting here giggling like a madman just typing out these words. One, it’s mind-boggling to be asked to be a Worldcon guest of honor in any capacity. Two, that it’s unspeakably brilliant that I get to do so for a Worldcon in Chicago, in which I have roots as a graduate of the University of Chicago, and which is one of my favorite places in the world. I often say Chicago is the quintessential American city (New York and Los Angeles being more international cities at this point), and every time I go there it does feel in some way like I’m coming home. So basically, speaking as a science fiction geek, this is the best of all possible worlds.

And you may ask, well, what does a Worldcon Toastmaster do? Well, unlike the other GoH positions, which consist of being fed grapes and chocolates by adoring minions whilst fans and admirers toss rose petals in your path as you are carried in an ornate palanquin to your panels and other events, the Toastmaster actually has to work. I will be taking part in the opening and closing ceremonies and in that year’s Hugo Awards ceremony, and will be also doing all sorts of other tasks during the convention itself (as well as, I’m sure, my own load of programming and the like). And over the next two years I’ll also be promoting and boosting Chicon 7 to others, getting people excited about the convention, and taking part, in whatever capacity the convention committee deems appropriate, in various planning and organizing.

Now, I don’t want to overstate my role, and in any event, I do have other things on my plate, like, oh, being President of SFWA and writing books and such. All the real heavy lifting of the convention will thankfully be done by others. But Chicon 7 head Dave McCarty has (rather all too cheerfully) told me how he plans to work me like a dog over the next couple of years, and I went in to the Toastmaster position assuming that I would be devoting a fair amount of time and energy to the thing. So, yes, I’m all in on this. And let me just say: Oh, man, do I have plans.

And now, what I really want to say about this, and to be sure that I am as unambiguous about this as possible, allow me to put the following in all caps and bold on its own separate line. Ready? Here it is:

YOU ARE SO VERY COMING TO CHICON 7.

You. Yes, you. Oh yes, you so very are. I want to you go over to your calendar right now and block off Labor Day Weekend 2012. Just go and block it off. Because that weekend you’re going to be in Chicago. And no, I don’t want to hear your excuses. You’ve got two full years to prepare, people. More than enough time.

What? Family plans? Then bring the family. They will love Chicago. It is chock full of family stuff.

Kids going to back to school? Bah. Take them to the Art Institute and the Field Museum. If the school won’t give them credit for that sort of unparalleled educational experience, then you should change schools.

Going to be on the run from the law? Dude, this is Chicago.

Hoping to be abducted by aliens that weekend? Come on: science fiction and fantasy convention. Far better chance for abduction than a lonely, cow-filled rural road, I’d say.

Giving birth? Well, aside from your very exact planning skills in planning a birth two years from now, for which you are to be congratulated, I suppose, I personally promise to dedicate a book to any child whose mother goes into labor while physically attending Chicon 7 (Note that you don’t have to actually give birth at the convention, although that would be one hell of a panel, wouldn’t it).

Planning a trip somewhere else for Labor Day? Not in 2012, my friend. In 2012, the tribe descends on Chicago. Chicago, a town of awesomeness. Chicago, city of brats and broad shoulders. Chicago, the place where the atom was first split — under a squash court. Chicago. Baby, you so want to go. The tribe won’t be the tribe without you.

Look, I’m totally serious here. This is my Worldcon, folks, and the appalling orders of fun we’re going to have there are going to be the sort which years from now, people will look back on and kick themselves that they weren’t part of. They will resort to lying about it: “What? Chicon 7? Oh, I was so totally there. No, really. I was in the back, man. Where you couldn’t see me.” Don’t be that guy. Be that guy who was actually in the back, the one that the other poor bastard is pretending to be. The one who he spends his night weeping that he isn’t.

You don’t even have to wait to register: Go to the Chicon site now and click on the “Membership” box and you can get yourself set up just like that. And then you will feel the sense of accomplishment that comes with knowing that no matter what happens to you between now and Labor Day Weekend, 2012, when that weekend rolls around, you’re going to be awash in awesome. And having that sort of certainty in your life is so reassuring in these troubled times.

Okay, enough hammering you over the head (for now). Just know that I’m tremendously honored and excited and can’t wait for 2012. And that I hope you’ll be there to share in the fun.

I’m Back, Plus: 12 Years

Ghlaghghee considers the existential horror of returning to the celebrity grind.

Hey, folks. I’m back. Yes, yes, I know. I missed you too. Let’s not get too blubbery about it, here, shall we. We’ve got stuff to do.

Now, before I get back to my usual shtick of random blatheration, a few administrative and procedural notes. Bear with me for the next several hundred words, please.

First, I want to thank, individually and severally, the guest bloggers who have kept Whatever so interesting in the last six weeks: John Anderson, Mykal Burns, N.K. Jemisin and Mary Robinette Kowal. I thought they did a wonderful job, and it was a treat for me to be able to pop over to my own site from time to time and be able to relax and just read what was being posted there. This is only the second time I’ve had guest bloggers, the first being more than five years ago, and from my point of view it couldn’t have gone better. After the first couple of days I said to myself, wow, I really don’t have to worry about anything, and then proceeded to enjoy my break.

Underpinning all of it, however, was the work of the interim site manager, Kate Baker, who managed the back end, wielded the Mallet of Loving Correction when necessary, and who popped in to add her own thoughts from time to time. This break of mine very literally couldn’t have happened without her help and effort, so my large and humble thanks go to her for all her work. She’s fab, and I recommend her for all your site managerial needs.

This six-week break was very useful for me. One, I was able to focus on a lot of work and clear the decks, as it were, of a bunch of stuff. Two, I got to vacation with family and to travel. Three, I was able to relax and not think about having to think about something interesting to say on a daily basis (which, surprise, is often harder than it looks). And fourth and finally, I was able to recharge and work up some new enthusiasm for writing here. Which is important, because as I often note, it’s not like I get paid for what I do here. When it starts being work, that’s a problem. So in all, the hiatus did for me what I hoped it would. I do love it when a plan comes together.

I’m coming back to Whatever, coincidentally enough, on the 12th anniversary of my beginning of it; I started it on this date in 1998, and did so, as I expect most of you know by now, to keep sharp in the column-writing format, having written columns for newspapers and other places before than and hoping to again at some point.

I do think if you had told me in 1998 that I’d still be doing this thing, I’d be a bit surprised (although not as surprised as I would be if you told me I’d be living in rural Ohio with a lawn the size of a New York City block, which is something which still freaks me out if I give it any sort of thought at all). A dozen years is a long time to do any one thing, and it’s especially a long time for me to write any one thing without being paid for it, mercenary as I am on that subject. But there really is more to life than just getting paid, and at this point, of course, I’ve reaped more than enough benefits from writing here that looking at Whatever as unrewarded effort would be flatly stupid and wrong. It’s been good for me psychically and career-wise, and that is its own reward. And anyway if I really wanted to be paid for what I do here, at this point I could easily put up ads. I haven’t, which I suppose says something.

Moving into year 13 and returning from a long break, it’s not unreasonable to ask whether I have any big changes planned for the site moving forward, and the answer is: no, not really. Content-wise Whatever has remained pretty constant over the years: It’s about whatever I want to write about, and I see no reason to change that. The Big Idea has settled into its own groove and while there are still plans to spin it off onto its own site one day, at this point I’ve got the process of it down well enough that I can run it here more or less indefinitely.

I am getting a little bored with the physical look of Whatever, which has looked more or less the same for three years now, and will probably fiddle with that in the near future in order to make navigating through it a bit easier. So that’s something you can look forward to. But it’s also something I have to think about a little more before I do it, in part because WordPress’ VIP set-up requires some extra hoop-jumping to make new designs work, and also because, well. I do screw up technical things, don’t I.

So the short form is that for now, I’ll just keep on doing what I’ve been doing, because it seems to work for me — and has for twelve years running now.

In any event. Hello again, again. It’s good to be back.