Monthly Archives: January 2011

Oy, Monday

Because I know you were wondering, Monday is my busiest work day, generally speaking. There’s the book quota, which will may or my not take me up to noon, and then when I’m done with that I shift to the filmcritic.com column, which needs to be finished by five pm. In between that I’m fielding e-mails and taking care of ancillary personal business, and now, at a little after 7pm, I’m going through my SFWA-related stuff, of which I am, I regret to say, a little behind and need to catch up.

All of which is to say, this is my excuse for making the first post of the day at 7:20 pm.

Mind you, I prefer this sort of situation to the alternative. I remember what it’s like to have all too much time on one’s hands. This is better.

Anyway. How was your Monday?

Crimes of Education

I’ve been getting a lot of e-mail asking for my thoughts about Kelley Williams-Bolar, the woman here in Ohio who was recently sentenced to to ten days in prison (of which apparently she served nine) and now has a felony record because she and her father listed the father’s residence as the primary residence of her children, in order that the kids could go to school in a better school district. As I understand it, idea here is that because she didn’t live in the district and pay taxes there, she committed fraud, although from what I understand the jury wouldn’t or couldn’t convict on that charge and instead she was found guilty of tampering with court documents. Ironically Ms. Williams-Bolar is not that far off from getting a teaching credential, which she now may not be able to use because she’s a felon.

How do I feel about this? Well, I will tell you a true story. When I was in sixth grade, my mother and her then-husband broke up, and in the space of three months I lived in four different houses in three different cities, and in three different school districts. The school district I had been in when this all started had a genuinely excellent “gifted and talented” program, and my teacher at the time, Keith Johnson, was one of those teachers that you’re lucky to get once in your entire life. I’d been at the school for a couple of years and I had friends who I still have now. And, not to put too fine a point on it, the breakup of my mother and her husband wasn’t exactly out of the blue, and the school and the people who were there who cared about me were an island of stability in a life which was, though no fault of my own, completely messed up.

When my mother left our house and moved, taking me and my sister with her, what she should have done, procedurally speaking, was take me out of that school and put me in a new one, in the city we then lived in. And then two months and two moves later, when we were in a new city and new school district entirely, she should have done it again, giving me three different schools, three sets of schoolmates and three entirely different social situations to adapt to on top of the fact that my family and home life had just been blown up.

She did do was no such thing. Through four moves, three cities and three school districts I stayed in the same class with the same teacher and the same friends and classmates. How my mother managed to do this is something she would have to tell you, but in point of fact I know that officially — and, I suspect, legally — speaking I was not supposed to have been allowed to stay there. My mother made the decision to do what she thought was better for me rather than what was probably the letter of the law.

Did my mother break the law doing what she did? I don’t know, but possibly. Did she break the rules? She certainly did. Did she do right thing? Probably not, from the point of view of the procedures of the school district. From the point of view of what was best for her child: Absolutely. There’s really no doubt about that. And if in fact my mother broke the law on my behalf way back when, I can say that doing so made a positive difference at a critical time in my life.

So: How do I feel about Ms. Williams-Bolar? Basically, I think she deserves a prison term and a felony conviction about as much as my mother did, for performing essentially the same actions, thirty years ago.

Being Fictional

The other day in the Whateverettes sidebar I linked to Elizabeth Bear’s discussion about being fictional — or, less pithily, her dealing with that fact that lots of people who read her books and/or her blog have an image of her in her head which is a construct, based on that writing, which may or may not have much to do with who she actually is. The number of people carrying a fictional version of her around in their head is smaller than the number of people who have a fictional version of, say, Angelina Jolie or Barack Obama in their head, but it’s a large enough number of people that she does have to deal with it.

And it’s a weird thing to deal with. As eBear notes:

Sometimes, it’s a little like dealing with 5,000 high school crushes. Sometimes it’s like dealing with 5,000 high school enemies. Sometimes, I learn things about myself I did not know from my Wikipedia page.

I understand where eBear’s coming from, because she and I have essentially the same level of micro-celebrity, and with the same subset of people — which is to say it’s difficult to imagine people who know of me not knowing who she is, and vice-versa. And I think she’s essentially correct when she notes that the fictional version people have of you in their heads in more about them than it is about you; everything gets filtered through their brain and how people fill in the blanks is by sticking in bits based on their own experiences, sometimes from others but mostly from themselves.

This fictional version of you is additionally compounded by the fact that, if you’re a writer, the version of you they’re building from isn’t the experience of you (as in, you’re someone they know in real life), but from the fiction you write and/or the public persona you project, either in writing (in blogs and articles) or in public events, such as conventions or other appearances. The fiction one writes may or may not track at all to one’s real-world personality or inclinations, and while one’s public persona probably does have something to do with the private person, it’s very likely to be a distorted version, with some aspects of one’s personality amped up for public consumption and other aspects tamped down or possibly even hidden completely.

All of which is to say these fictional versions of one’s self are to one’s actual self as grape soda is to a grape — artificial and often so completely different that it’s often difficult to see the straight-line connection between the two.

And this is why I personally find them fascinating, especially — since I am both an egotist and a narcissist — when they involve me. I like going out onto the Web and discovering these strange, doppelganger versions of me, and also the people who speak so authoritatively about the sort of person these doppelgangers are. Occasionally those doppelgangers are better, more clever people that I am in real life, and occasionally they’re complete jackasses. Sometimes they’re people I’d like to meet; often they’re people I would avoid at parties. Their life and career details are generally similar but not precisely my own, and it’s interesting to see how those variations have spun their lives off of mine, and what conclusions people have made about them based on those variations.

What do I do about these fictional versions of me out there? Generally speaking, nothing, because there’s nothing to be done about them. When one is in the (mostly) happy position of having more people know of you than you can personally know, an abundance of fictional versions of you is part of the territory. I can’t make a deep and personal two-way connection with everyone who reads my books or this blog, and I can’t demand that people don’t make assumptions about who I am from what they read or hear (well, I could, but then part of their data set when they think about me would be that I was both paranoid and completely unrealistic). Generally I try not to do things in public which would encourage people to think I’m a unremitting prick, but I would try to do that even if I didn’t have the level of micro-fame I have. And of course some people think I’m an unremitting prick anyway.

But you do try not to worry about it. Teresa Nielsen Hayden, who is often a font of wisdom on many fronts, has a useful standard response for dealing with people who confuse their fictional construct of someone with that actual person, which I will paraphrase thusly: “I am not responsible for actions of the imaginary version of me you have inside your head.” This is an important thing for people to remember, when they get to the point where more people know them than they know.

Personally, I’m less interested in the fictional versions of me that are out there than I am about the moment where people first ever meet me — either in my real-life “I’m actually standing in front of you” version or the first time they read one of my books or come to this site. I always wonder what that’s like for people, and what impression they come away with. There’s no way to ask them as they’re having it, and I always wonder about it (I could when they were actually meeting me, I suppose, but it would be both meta and obnoxious: “Hey! You’re meeting me now! How is it for you?”). I’m not worried about the fictional versions they construct from that point, but I always hope the first time they “meet” me it goes well.

Hey, I’m Touring Germany in October

Dear Germany:

I love you guys. You are my bestselling market outside of the United States and you’ve given me awards — but even before then I’ve always had an interest in you. Did you know I took seven years of German in high school and college? It’s true, I did. Yes I was terrible at it, and even now I speak German roughly as well as I juggle flaming chainsaws, which is to say not at all. But that’s my fault, not yours.

Heck, I even once applied to spend a year as an exchange student in Germany, and made it to the final round, only to be knocked out of contention because I was one-tenth of a grade point under the person who got the last slot. And, really, Germany, what has that person ever done for you? Nothing. Seriously, I think they got lost in the Schwarzwald while they were there and were consumed by bears. I’m pretty sure that’s what happened. I think I read about it one time. The point is, they never appreciated you like I appreciated you. And they certainly didn’t write you novels, like I did. Full of love. And also spaceships and lasers.

So, yes: Forces have conspired to keep us apart. But no longer. For this October, Germany, I am coming to you. Yes! The United States State Department and Heyne (my German publisher) are teaming up to bring me across the oceans and many time zones and several languages to bring me to you in a multi-city tour. So far, here are the cities in which I am confirmed:

Frankfurt
Saarbrücken
Stuttgart
Tübingen
Freiburg
Munich

And possibly one more city to come. More details, including dates and places, are coming in the future.

Those of you looking at these cities and thinking to yourself “Frankfurt? In October? Will he be at the Book Fair?” The answer is: Yes! I will be there, and other places as well. And from there I’ll be off through your fair land, riding trains and giving readings. It’s all very well timed, since Der Wilde Planet, the German version of Fuzzy Nation, will be released there in September.

So prepare yourself, Germany! For I am coming. And, oh, the fun we shall have.

See you soon,

John Scalzi

Professing My Ignorance About Egypt

To the person who demanded “write something about Egypt!” — uh, okay: I have nothing useful to say about the situation in Egypt whatsoever. I suspect I am more aware of the recent history of Egypt than most Americans, but this means I am just aware enough to know that any attempt at substantive opining about the situation will expose me as crushingly ignorant, albeit slightly less so than the average person here in the US. Me admitting this now just eliminates the middleman.

I do have a reflexive inclination toward the protesters, because among other factors it’s difficult to root against people standing up to an authoritarian government, and I worry that the Army and police there are going to just say “screw it” and open up on them. I’m also glad I’m not the president today, because there’s a dude hoisted on the petard of realpolitiks today, isn’t there. This isn’t specifically about Obama, incidentally; it McCain were president today, he’d be hoisted on that same petard.

But beyond that what I’m mostly doing is watching and seeing what happens, because among other things, this is further evidence that the vast majority of things that happen in the world are not about me, and me trying to find a way to shoehorn myself into the narrative one way or another is a little silly. The best thing I can do in a situation like this is to read up on it now and get more context and understanding, so the next time I want to or am asked to comment on it, I have something slightly less ignorant to say.

Convention Announcement

Charlie’s mentioned it on his own Web site now, so I’ll mention it here:

I will be a substitute Guest of Honor at Minicon 46, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, April 22 – 24. I’m stepping in for Charles Stross, who is bowing out because of “medical issues affecting a close family member.” I hope you’ll all take a moment to think good thoughts for Charlie and his family.

This appearance was unexpected and I wish could have happened under different circumstances; nevertheless I am very much looking forward visiting Minnesota, which has some of my favorite people in it. As far as I know this will be my only visit to that fine state this year, so if you’re in the area and would like to see me, this is where and when to do it.

See you there.

Just Arrived, 1/27/11

Catching up on some of the books that have come to my door recently:

* Pale Demon, Kim Harrison (Harper Voyager): Witch Rachel Morgan has to get all the way across the country in order to appear at a witches convention to defend her life, in three days, without flying, supernaturally or otherwise. Needless to say, this will not be an uneventful road trip. The same thing happened to me the last time I took Greyhound. This one is out on February 22nd.

* The Girl Who Became a Beatle, Greg Taylor (Feiwel and Friends): A girl becomes a Beatle. No, for reals, y’all. It’s totally all there in the title. It’s not false advertising. This one hits February 15, and author Taylor will be here to do a Big Idea piece on it then.

* Mad Skills, Walter Greatshell (Ace): A woman recovering from a traumatic brain injury discovers that the technology placed in her head to aid in her rehabilitation has another purpose as well. A sinister purpose, you ask? As if there is any other kind! This is out now.

* Welcome to the Greenhouse, edited by Gordon Van Gelder (O/R Books): This science fiction anthology has climate change as its theme and has original stories by Bruce Sterling, Greg Benford, Judith Moffet and M.J. Locke, among others. And for all of you about to snark “What? A Greenhouse book while we’re encased in snow?!?” there’s a difference between weather and climate. Don’t make me smack you, yo. Available 2/21.

* The King of Crags, Stephen Deas (Roc): The second book in Deas’ “Memory of Flames” series packs in prophecy, political maneuvering and more dragons than you can shake a stick at. Go ahead, try. You’ll shake that stick, and then dragons will be all, “really? That’s all you got?” And then they’ll eat you. That’s what you get for annoying a dragon, fool. This arrives next Tuesday.

* Death Cloud, Andrew Lane (Farrar Straus Giroux): It’s Sherlock Holmes! In teenage form! Solving mysteries, as he does. This book has been authorized and endorsed by the Doyle estate, so there you have it. Also, Lane will be here next Tuesday to get into the details in a Big Idea post. Which is also the day the book comes out. Count the days! Count them!

* Napier’s Bones, Derryl Murphy (ChiZine Publications): A man who uses numbers to make magic finds himself on the run across two continents, on a journey where not making it out alive will be the least of his problems. Your pocket calculator will not avail you! This one is slated for the first day of Spring, i.e., March 21.

* Golden Reflections, Fred Saberhagen (Baen): This is kind of interesting: This book features a classic novel by Saberhagen (Mask of the Sun) followed by seven stories in the Saberhagens’ Inca/Aztec-dominated universe, from David Weber, Daniel Abraham, Jane Linskold and others. Not a bad way to reissue an old work to new audiences. Out Tuesday.

The Big Idea: Matt Forbeck

In the annals of the dreaded author question “where do you get your ideas?” It’s entirely possible that Matt Forbeck has got the most interesting response, at least when it comes to his novel Amortals. I’d go on further about it, but I think I should just let Forbeck jump right in and take this one.

MATT FORBECK:

Amortals started — starts, actually — with a snuff film.

In case you’re a sensible person who doesn’t know about such things, a snuff film is a movie of someone getting killed. They’re the real thing, sometimes full of blood, brains, and guts, but always capped off with a real live person being punted off this mortal coil, often in a gruesome or grisly way. No special effects here.

I’ve never seen a snuff film, and I don’t have any desire to. There’s enough death in the world without me having to go hunt it down and rubberneck at it. But when I heard about these movies — about the fact that some people made them on purpose by recording premeditated murders — the idea of them struck a nerve.

I started wondering not about what it would be like to make such a film but to be the subject of it. To be strapped into a chair, beaten and abused, terrified for your life, and then shot to death. To be the man who got shot just so someone else could see you die. And record it for other people to watch.

That just pissed me off.

From there, I thought about what it would be like to have that happen to you — and then be able to come back, but with only the snuff film as evidence of what had happened. What would you do? How would you react? And how would you find your killer and make him pay?

That’s impossible, of course. You don’t get to come back from the dead. Right?

Well, not today, but that’s one of the great things about science fiction. You get to play around with technology we don’t have yet, things that make the impossible possible, at least in the story.

I sat down and wrote the first chapter of what became Amortals in one big rush. It was brutal and horrifying, and at the end of it, the victim woke up in a fresh clone body and was charged with going back out into that cold, hard world and solving his own messy murder.

From there, I didn’t really know where to go. I came up with an outline and shopped it around, but this was back in 1994. Not only was I a lot younger then but I only had couple handfuls of publishing credits, and most of those were in tabletop games rather than fiction. Even though my career in that field was taking off, those credits totaled up to not even a fraction of what I needed to make an editor jump up and offer me a contract based on what little I had.

As a busy working writer, I couldn’t spare the time to sit down and write an entire novel on the hope that someone might buy it. Even if I did sell the book, that would mean not eating for the months I was writing, and wasn’t able to risk that at the time. I shelved the idea, promising myself I’d come back to it later.

In the intervening fifteen years, I moved from being a full-time game designer into writing tie-in novels, and I established a reputation as someone who could spin a good yarn. Most importantly, my editors became comfortable with the idea that I wouldn’t disappear with an advance, that I could and would finish what I started. One of them — Marc Gascoigne at Angry Robot — finally took a flying leap of faith on a refurbished version of that thin outline of mine and, based on a page-and-a-half synopsis, signed me to write the book.

Then, of course, I couldn’t avoid it any longer. Any excuses I might have had vanished. I had to sit down and write it. After all, I’d already cashed the check and spent it.

Fifteen years passed between me having that initial inspiration and sitting down to write the book, and the thrust of the book evolved due to that. Not only had the world changed, but I had too. The concerns of a young man fresh out of college naturally differ from those of a guy with five kids. The core of the story, though — the spark that ignited the flame — hadn’t changed at all.

Amortals — the version that’s in stores already — starts the same way now as it did back in ‘94: with a snuff film, a lot of bullets, and a man bent on avenging his own death. The power of that idea carried me all the way through.

—-

Amortals: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read and listen to an excerpt. Follow Forbeck on Twitter.

Oscar Predictions, 2011

In my capacity as a professional film commentator of two decades standing — seriously, I started my job as a film critic in 1991, MAN I AM OLD — it’s time for my annual Oscar predictions. This is the first stab, and then a couple days before the actual ceremony I’ll make any adjustments and corrections I feel like. Got it? Let’s begin.

BEST PICTURE

“Black Swan”
“The Fighter”
“Inception”
“The Kids Are All Right ”
“The King’s Speech”
“127 Hours”
“The Social Network”
“Toy Story 3″
“True Grit”
“Winter’s Bone”

Since the Academy switched over to the “ten nominees” slate, I see the Best Picture slate functioning two ways. The first is a very self-conscious attempt by the Academy to celebrate the diversity of film by suggesting all these films, blockbuster and indie, animated and live action, science fiction and social study, all represent the best film making has to offer. And in that respect, yup, it sure is a nice spread of films. Well done, Academy; we’ll all very impressed out here.

The other way, of course, is as a slate to pick the eventual winner from, and in that respect, as a practical matter, we can throw out any film that didn’t also pick up a Best Director nod, since in the 80-some years of the Oscars, only three films have won Best Picture without their director getting a nomination, and the last time was more than two decades ago. So that’s Inception, The Kids Are All Right, 127 Hours, Toy Story 3 and Winter’s Bone out the window to start.

Of those that remain I think Black Swan and The Fighter are next out the window; their rewards are likely to be in the acting categories. True Grit is next out; a similar Coen brothers film (No Country For Old Men) won Best Picture just a couple of years ago, so I don’t really see the Academy repeating itself so soon.

That leaves The Social Network and The King’s Speech to duke it out. The Social Network is probably the better film from the standpoint of social relevance and simple art, and it’s vacuumed up all sorts of run-up awards, but I think there might be a concern that it’s peaked just a little too soon. The King’s Speech, on the other hand, is very handsome and very well acted and very much in the Academy sweet spot. So it’s really going to come down to whether the Academy wants to pretend it’s hip or admit it wants to be in bed by ten.

What will win: At this point, I’m thinking The King’s Speech is going to pull a Shakespeare in Love on us.

What should win: The Social Network. As much as I dislike Facebook, this film is a set piece for What The World Is Like Now, for better or worse.

 

BEST DIRECTOR

Darren Aronofsky for “Black Swan”
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen for “True Grit”
David Fincher for “The Social Network”
Tom Hooper for “The King’s Speech”
David O. Russell for “The Fighter”

Russell out first; he’s happy he has his career back. I think the Coens are next off; it’s not that they don’t deserve the award, but they each have a couple of these on their shelf and, again, True Grit is not too far off from what they’ve been awarded for before. Aronofsky is still too weird; I think one accurate comparison for him perceptually — directing wise, not in his personal inclinations — is Roman Polanski; someone whose talent is undeniable but too aggressively off-center for the middle-of-the-road Academy voter to warm up to. Black Swan is sort of his Rosemary’s Baby, if you get what I mean.

So this leave Tom Hooper and David Fincher, whose films are the ones I expect will go neck and neck for the Best Picture Oscar. Hooper’s major problem, simply put, is: Dude, who is Tom Hooper? Well, he’s done some TV and a couple small British films. He’s kind of like 2011′s version of Hugh Hudson: In the right place at the right time with the right film, but not necessarily with enough recognition to get him over the finish line.

However, David Fincher does have the recognition: He was here before with Benjamin Button, and although his career has been stylized and idiosyncratic — Seven, Fight Club, Zodiac — he’s matured, i.e., hasn’t sunk himself into the black hole of his own stylistic choices. Also, since I think the Academy is likely to play it safe with Best Picture this year, I think giving Fincher the director Oscar will make the voters feel they’ve given his film sufficient recognition. In the Shakespeare in Love scenario, Fincher is Steven Spielberg. And that doesn’t suck.

Who will win: Fincher

Who should win: Fincher

 

BEST ACTOR

Javier Bardem in “Biutiful”
Jeff Bridges in “True Grit”
Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network”
James Franco in “127 Hours”
Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech”

Academy screener DVDs were sufficient to get Bardem on the ballot; good for him. They’re not going to get him the award. Jesse Eisenberg is just happy to be here. Likewise, I think James Franco is pleased as punch that he’s being taken seriously, although frankly the man’s sudden ascent in the realm of serious acting still has me feeling a little flat-footed. He was so shouty in those Spider-Man films, you know? If Jeff Bridges hadn’t won last year for Crazy Heart, I would say this would be his year, but he did, and it was a career sort of award, and you don’t win two career awards.

That leaves Colin Firth, who was nominated last year, did a fine job this year, and who has the good fortune of being in a film that I suspect will suck in a bunch of awards and therefore would have enough momentum for him to take this even if he wasn’t deserving of it, which he is.

Who will win: Firth

Who should win: Firth

 

BEST ACTRESS

Annette Bening in “The Kids Are All Right”
Nicole Kidman in “Rabbit Hole”
Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter’s Bone”
Natalie Portman in “Black Swan”
Michelle Williams in “Blue Valentine”

Jennifer Lawrence off first; a fine performance but she’s young and I don’t think anyone thinks she’s paid her dues yet. Nicole Kidman off next; she’s in this year’s “Meryl Streep” slot, i.e., “Academy members had four nominees, couldn’t think of a fifth and there was the screener DVD right in front of them.” Michelle Williams has come a long way from Dawson’s Creek and has a previous nomination, but I’m not sure Blue Valentine is the film that’s going to take her all the way.

So we’re left with Bening and Portman. I have a soft spot for Bening, who I think should probably have won an Oscar by now, and who may yet if enough voters are in a “career award” sort of mood this year. But on the other hand Portman is The Actress of The Moment, with a hit film, an envious commercial and critical pedigree, is happily engaged and pregnant and, not inconsiderably, represents the Academy’s most rational way to award Black Swan with an Oscar. I’m pretty sure it’s hers.

Who will win: Portman

Who should win: Bening. I think career awards are perfectly fine.

 

SUPPORTING ACTOR

Christian Bale in “The Fighter”
John Hawkes in “Winter’s Bone”
Jeremy Renner in “The Town”
Mark Ruffalo in “The Kids Are All Right”
Geoffrey Rush in “The King’s Speech”

Dear John Hawkes: Enjoy it, dude. You too, Ruffalo. Jeremy Renner: you’re having a heck of a couple of years. Don’t do anything stupid. Geoffrey Rush could take this if the voters are being lazy and just checking off every time The King’s Speech is on the ballot, but I very strongly suspect that Christian Bale’s walking about the door with the Oscar, both for his meth-tastic performance and also because this is how the Academy will choose to say “nice job” to The Fighter.

Who will win: Bale

Who should win: Bale.

 

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Amy Adams in “The Fighter”
Helena Bonham Carter in “The King’s Speech”
Melissa Leo in “The Fighter”
Hailee Steinfeld in “True Grit”
Jacki Weaver in “Animal Kingdom”

This category is always the hardest to handicap (i.e., the one I always screw up) because, honestly, I don’t think even the Academy members know who to choose in this category, in the years where Woody Allen doesn’t make it easy for them. That said, everyone I know says this year is likely to come down to a fight between Melissa Leo and Amy Adams, and I don’t really see any reason to doubt that. If it does come down to the two of them, the coin flip I just did points to Adams.

Who will win: Adams.

Who should win: Steinfeld, with the note that she’s as much a “supporting actress” in True Grit as Jeff Bridges is a supporting actor.

Other categories: I’m having a hard time imagining a world in which Toy Story 3 doesn’t win the Animated Film Oscar. In screenplays, I think Aaron Sorkin is a good bet for Adapted, and I think Inception actually has a chance at Original, by way of consolation for Chris Nolan being stiffed in the director category. I suspect Inception may also sneak off with Cinematography. I would be chuffed if The Social Network won original score, because the idea of Trent Reznor being an Oscar winner fills me with glee. Finally, I and every science fiction geek in the known universe is rooting for “The Lost Thing” in the Animated Short category, because Shaun Tan is one of our own. Go, Shaun! Go!

 

 

Oscars and Science Fiction, 2011

This year’s Academy Award nominations are out, and is there anything in them for science fiction fans to be happy about — or outraged about? As I point out in this week’s FilmCritic.com column, there’s a little bit of both. Go check out my sci-fi Oscar roundup and share your own thoughts over on the site.

Also, later today I’ll probably do a more general Oscar prediction piece here on Whatever. Stay tuned.

Super Instant State of the Union Reaction Post GO!

Eh, it was fine. Obama said a bunch of stuff that I find generally reasonable and unobjectionable, and cast it in such a way to imply that it could be done in a manner that would satisfy both Democrats and Republicans, and everyone in the chamber seemed to be on good behavior still, so, yeah. “Comfortably boring” is probably how I would describe it, and in fact just did. But you know, I don’t actually mind the idea of a comfortably boring government getting some basic stuff done.

Your thoughts?

(For those of you who missed it: the full text of the address)

Agent to the Stars French Cover

My writing day is a little turned upside-down today because the Oscar nominations come out and I have to write my Filmcritic.com column about them before noon, so today I’ll be hiding from the Internets in the afternoon. Which gives me an excellent excuse to show you this right now: The French cover to Agent to the Stars, commissioned by my French publisher from Paul Kidby, who is perhaps best known to readers as the fellow who gives Terry Pratchett such delightfully whimsical covers.

How do I feel about this cover? ZOMG I LOVE IT SO HARD. I think it very well captures the book, and I really appreciate Kidby’s attention to detail. Agent has been fortunate to get a series of pretty damn awesome covers — first by Mike Krahulik for the Subterranean Press edition, then by Pascal Blanchet for the Tor editions — and this one continues the book’s lucky streak of talented cover artists. All books and authors should be so lucky.

Here’s my French publisher’s page on the book, in case you’re French and/or just want a copy of this book with this cover. The book itself will come out on March 24.

Monday (Barely Still) Morning Update

Hope you survived the weekend without me. And if you didn’t, I don’t suppose you’re reading this anyway. And now, some quick updates of things and stuff:

* First, hey look at this:

At the moment, the German version of Metatropolis is the #1 science fiction book on Amazon Germany, and their #26 book overall. Why? Well, because it’s a fabulous book, I suppose. And also possibly because a very positive review of the book just popped up on Spiegel Online, Der Spiegel being the German equivalent of Time magazine. That doesn’t suck (here’s a Google Translate version of that page). It’s nice to see the book doing well in the world, or at the very least the German-speaking portion of it.

* Second, I had a lovely weekend as always at ConFusion, which for those of you not in the know, is a science fiction convention up in Troy, Michigan. I’ve mentioned before that I consider ConFusion to be my “home” convention since it was the first non-Worldcon convention I ever went to and also because I have so many personal friends who attend it. The guests of honor for the weekend included Paolo Bacigalupi and Cherie Priest, so it was nice to hang out with the two of them and all the other folks. The only sad thing about it was that Krissy wasn’t able to attend, because she and Athena were both ill (they’re both better now). But there’s always next year, and next year the Guests of Honor will include Patrick Rothfuss and Jim Hines.

Speaking of Pat, here’s a picture of him and me, taken by Cherie:

Some of you may wonder why it is Pat appears to be nibbling on my ear; others of you may be wondering why I’m wearing a crown. In both cases the answer is the same: Dude, you had to have been there. It made perfect sense at the time.

* Third, I’ve had a frustrating morning with technology. For the second time in the last couple of days Google Documents is falling down on the job for me, and both times in the same way, which is that it’s refusing to use the formatting settings I’ve applied to it. Combine that with a couple of other technical glitches (most notably, on the Cr-48 at least, the visual positioning of the cursor several spaces over from where it actually is, making editing a genuine pain in the ass), and a) I spent the morning fighting with software more than writing, which is annoying, and b) I’ve decided for the moment to port the current novel out of Google Docs and into Microsoft Word, which at the very least does not fight me when I want to indent a paragraph.

I don’t know that this means that novel writing on the Cr-48 is a totally failed experiment, because in fact I’ve gotten a very substantial chunk of the novel done using it, and I’ve also gotten over the “I need to be on my desktop to write novels” thing I had going. Both of these are good things. But it is a reminder that until “the cloud” — and the services that run on them — can get out of your way and just do things like resident programs and applications can, it and they are going to continue to be second-place solutions for seriously getting work done.

And because my morning productivity has been blown by fighting with tech, I’m now off to try to get a little of that creative writing done before my daughter gets home. See you all later this afternoon.

Gaaaah, I Can’t Choose The Haiku Contest Finalists Because There Are Too Many Good Ones, So Here’s Just The Winner

It’s from E.J., who wrote, in the haiku of his demise:

I did always hope
My last moments would be spent
Somewhat coherent.

That’s a laser reference, there. And a very good one.

And with that, Lieutenant Merkel is now Lieutenant Fischer. Additionally, E.J. will get an acknowledgment in the book, and a signed copy when it comes out. And a pony! Well, no, not a pony. At least, not from me. Sorry. But thanks, E.J., for such a morbidly amusing haiku, and congratulations.

As for the finalists: Gaaaaaah, so many good ones. I was paralyzed by choice! I hate it when that happens. Yes, I know. I suck. We’ll just have to have another contest at some point.