Monthly Archives: April 2011

The Other New Acquisition

I figured, as long as I was spending a diaphragm-seizing amount of money on a new car, I might as well slip in another acquisition as well, because then it wouldn’t seem as large, relatively speaking. Also, my birthday is coming up and I recently finished a novel, so those were additional excuses to buy something for myself. So I got a new camera: A Nikon D5100, photographed here, in the grand tradition of the outgoing camera filming its replacement, by the Nikon D70s, which interestingly enough, I bought for myself in 2005 as a reward for finishing The Ghost Brigades.

The D5100 is Nikon’s “mid-range” consumer dSLR, as was the D70s when I got that one, and for me what that means is that it has all the functions I need to take pictures and rather more besides. It has gotten pretty good reviews for being a nice balance between power and simplicity, and I’m comfortable with Nikon products, so in all it seemed like it would be a good camera for me. It arrived just as I was going out the door to get the new car, so I haven’t had too much time to play with it yet, so I suppose I know what I’ll be doing with my weekend.

But what of the D70s, you ask? Well, as it happens, the daughter has recently developed an interest in photography and has become a little frustrated with the limitations of point and shoot cameras, so that camera now becomes hers to learn on and play with. She’s already been clicking away at the cats; she’s toying with the idea of becoming a wild life photographer, so stalking the domestic life is a good practice run.

Speaking of which, behold! The first picture out of the D5100! Because I know my audience, man:

You’re welcome.

The New Car Arrives

We took delivery yesterday on the Mini Cooper Countryman All4 we ordered a while back, which makes me happy, since this means I get to drive it a little bit before I trundle off on my three-week book tour. As you can see here, it’s a pretty little machine — but more than that it’s also by all indications also very solidly built, which is more to the point. As I’ve noted earlier, the Scalzi family philosophy toward major purchases is “buy as well as you can, then use it until it falls apart,” which is why the Countryman is replacing a car that is older than our daughter and has enough miles on it to go a significant amount of the way to the moon. We’ll likely have this car just as long, so we made sure we bought something we could live with for that length of time.

I mentioned to Krissy that one of the things that makes this particular car special is that I suspect it will the last car of ours that we ever buy with an internal combustion engine, or at the very least, the last car we buy primarily powered by one. The Odyssey we have is pretty healthy and I suspect will chug along for another five to eight years, and by that time I expect that electric engines — or hydrogen fuel cell engines, or whatever — will have advanced enough that I won’t have to feel like an early adopter (i.e., willing to put up with large inconveniences for the privilege of feeling smug). I’m looking forward to that purchase, although when I say I’m looking forward I should note that doesn’t mean I’m in a rush. Cars are expensive, man.

As we’ll be living with this car for some time, we did pile on the bells and whistles, and the one that’s currently giving me that “I Live In the Future” twinge is Countryman’s key, which is not a key at all but looks like a tiny flying saucer. To make the car go, it doesn’t need to be put anywhere specific, it just has to be in proximity to the car. That achieved, all you have to do is press a button to start the car, and off it goes. Now, I realize this nifty little trick has been around for a few years, but on the other hand, it’s not been around on any car I owned, so the experience is new to me. I have to fight the temptation just to sit in my new car and turn it on and off without a key. Yes, I am just that easily amused.

Various and Sundry, 4/28/11

Short thoughts on three things:

Obama’s Birth Certificate: It’s times like these that one has to make a conscious act of will to remember that in fact Americans are not getting stupider, they’ve always believed idiotic things about the politicians they hate. Believing that Obama was not born in the US long ago got placed on my list of Things That Suggest You May Be a Willful Moron, along with believing in horoscopes, being against immunizations, arguing against evolution and thinking 9/11 was an inside job (note: this is not a complete list), so it’s not entirely surprising to me that the President releasing the long-form birth certificate doesn’t satisfy the birthers at all. Morons can’t help being morons; most of them like being morons. Also, there’s money (and/or votes) to be had continuing to argue to other morons that you’re right in the face of all reasonable evidence.

The best you can say about it is that if you ever believed Obama was not a US citizen, you might have been a moron, but if you still believe it, well, now you’re definitely an ultra moron. So well done you. Honestly, people who are unhappy with the president have lots of genuine and legitimate reasons to be be unhappy with him. Focusing on his birth just indicates your inherent ridiculousness and unseriousness.

The Royal Wedding: I don’t believe it will surprise anyone to know I plan to sleep through it. Philosophically, as an American I refuse to get excited about things involving monarchies; as a human, I don’t know either the bride or groom or either sets of parents, and I didn’t get an invitation, so honestly, what do I care. I wish the couple happiness, because I’m a fan of marriage, and I always hope people are happy in them, but I’d wish the same happiness to any two people getting married, a largess universal, as it were, not confined to people who will one day be ceremonial heads of state and/or such a person’s spouse. Otherwise, meh.

Storms in the South: I’ve donated to the Red Cross today. Have you? Think about it.

All the Mammals in the Same Room

Although just barely, since Ghlaghghee can be spotted as a dark mark to the left of Krissy, walking out the door (I, as the photographer, am present but not visible). This is actually a daily morning occurrence: I’m usually in my office in the morning, and then Krissy comes in to talk to me, and then everyone else trundles in to see what is all the rumpus. It’s nice to be able to account for everyone before they all go their separate ways, to work, school and outside to antagonize rodents. We’ll all get back together again in the evening to recount the day’s events. Wash, rinse, repeat. Not a bad life.

5/24 New York Public Library Event: Venue Change!

The following note just landed, from the New York Public Library, regarding the “Speculating on Fiction” event on May 24, featuring me, Lev Grossman, Scott Westerfeld and Cat Valente:

Due to overwhelming popular response, the event has been moved from the Mid-Manhattan Library to the Stephen A Schwarzman Building, located at Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street. Please enter through the Fifth Avenue doors and proceed downstairs to the South Court Auditorium. The event will take place from 6 pm until 7:30 pm. Thanks very much for accomodating this change of venue and change of time.

Overwhelming popular response, people. I could plotz. Thanks, folks.

Here’s the new NYPL page about the event. It does appear that at this time they are allowing new registrations for the event (it’s free, but you need to register), so if you wanted to go but weren’t able to register, now’s your chance. Hurry!

New Fuzzy Review + Note to UK Fans

First things first: A very nice review of Fuzzy Nation over at Wired’s GeekDad column, in which reviewer John Booth also reads Piper’s Little Fuzzy, the book mine is rebooting. The verdict:

[Scalzi's] style and skill make it a highly entertaining read. It succeeds both as a new novel from a talented writer and as a tribute and gateway to Piper’s work.

It’s nice that it’s working as intended.

Second, for those folks in the UK who were wondering when/if Fuzzy Nation is getting a release over there, here is a link to the Amazon.co.uk page for the book (and here it is for Waterstones). Both of those list the 6th of June as the release date, which is not too far behind the US release, so that’s good. We’re also working to make sure eBook versions are available as well.

That said, UK folks: For reasons too appallingly tedious to go into detail about here, Fuzzy Nation is being distributed in the UK through my US publisher rather than my UK publisher, and the upshot of that is that there’s likely to be a relatively fewer freestanding copies of the book in stores when it comes out — there will be some, but probably not huge stacks of them. So the very best way to make sure you can get a copy for your very own is to pre-order, either through Amazon UK/Waterstones, or by going to your local bookstore and asking them to order a copy for you.

And you say: Well, why don’t I just order the US edition of the book rather than wait a month for the UK edition? I have two reasons to ask you to order the UK edition. One, because when you order the UK edition at your local bookstore, you’re supporting local businesses (or at the very least, UK businesses), and I do encourage that. Two, because while royalties on sales of the US edition go to pay down my advance until it earns out, the royalties on sales of the UK edition go directly to me. Contracts are fun! So please patronize your local bookstores and the UK edition of Fuzzy Nation. Thank you.

The Big Idea: Jennifer Estep

Here’s a crazy idea: Books should be fun. That’s Jennifer Estep’s philosophy, and today she’s here to tell you how it informs her “Elemental Assassin” series of novels, including the latest, Tangled Threads. And she has questions of her own for you at the end. Be ready!

JENNIFER ESTEP:

So here’s my Big Idea – I think books should be fun.

That’s it. That’s my writing philosophy in a nutshell. Nothing deep or serious here – just fun. LOL.

So how does this relate to my Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series? Here goes.

Back in high school, I discovered epic fantasy books by the likes of David Eddings, Terry Brooks, and others. As I read more and more epic and other types of fantasy books, I realized something – I always liked reading about the assassin characters. Why? Because there were just so many different types of assassins out there – cool assassins, crazy assassins, government assassins, reluctant assassins, psychotic assassins, and every variation in between.

But the more books with assassin characters that I read (in the fantasy genre and beyond) and the more movies and TV shows I watched, the more I realized something – that a lot of the assassins were, well, whiny. Seriously, seriously whiny and all angsty and emotionally conflicted about their profession. It always seemed to me like there was a very simple solution to this problem – quit being an assassin! Bada-bing, bada-boom. Problem solved, angst gone.

Somewhere along the way, I thought it would be cool to write my own assassin character with my own magic and world building. Someone who was actually okay with being an assassin because she knew that there were worse people in the world than she was – real monsters that she could protect good, decent folks from. More importantly, someone who was definitely not whiny.

So I did, and the result is Gin Blanco, aka the assassin the Spider and the star of my Elemental Assassin series. I’ll admit that Gin has a little bit of angst, due to the fact that her mother and sister were murdered when she was a kid, but Gin’s made her peace with being an assassin – and she’s more than happy to pull out her knives when the situation calls for it. With no whining at all.

But back to the fun part. I’m not trying to write the next great American novel with my Elemental Assassin books. I just want to tell a good story – one that’s full of action, danger, magic, and even a little romance. One of my favorite TV shows is The A-Team, if that tells you anything about me. LOL. I like writing fight scenes, and I love figuring out how Gin can use her deadly skills, along with her Ice and Stone magic, to take down the bad guys. That’s why I write about an assassin.

At the end of one of my books, I just want the reader to feel like it was time and money well-spent – and hope that she’s looking forward to Gin’s next adventure.

What about you guys? What are some of your favorite books?

—-

Tangled Threads: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|IndieBound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt of the novel. Visit the author’s blog. Follow her on Twitter.

Zeus is Dubious About the Return of the Coke Zero

“I… I thought we were rid of this stuff,” he seems to be saying. Guess again, cat! It’s back! In carbonated form!

People asked me how difficult it was to give up Coke Zero for the Lenten season, and the answer is: Not as hard as I expected. The first couple of days I did have caffeine withdrawal headaches, but they weren’t the complete throbbing bastards I was expecting, and a single pill of Excedrin banished them pretty well. After that it was pretty simple to keep the caffeinated soda out of the picture. Occasionally I would get a sort of formless want which I figure was my body having its Coke Zero twitch, but in those cases I would hit myself in the head with a ball peen hammer and it all worked itself out. Alternately, I just dealt with it. You decide which story is better.

Coke Zero is back on the menu, but it doesn’t mean I’m in a rush to get back to the same level of consumption of it that I was at before my lenten break from the stuff. I had been downing five or six cans of the stuff per day; I’d be happy to keep it down to two a day moving forward. I suspect it’ll be ever-so-slightly healthier for me in the long run. And it’ll be better not to be so damn caffeinated all the time.

Hugo Entitlement

Question in e-mail:

Are you upset that you’re not on this year’s Hugo ballot? You’ve been on it a lot recently.

Short answer: No.

Longer answer: No, and also, really? Are you serious? It’s a fine ballot, in terms of the work, and as a special added bonus it’s filled up with a bunch of my friends, all of whom I wish could win, even when they’re up against other friends of mine. There’s not much on the ballot I would change. I like it when I show up on the ballot — it’s nice, you know? — and if I show up on the ballot again some other year I will be delighted. Feel free to nominate me at a later time if you feel the work merits it. But I think being upset that one is not on the ballot would be indicative of the twin diseases of Insufficient Graciousness and Excessive Hubris, and both have at their root a wholly unearned feeling of entitlement. I try really hard not to be that guy.

Beyond that airy, philosophical point, on a practical level, last year my published fiction output was three short stories, and the Short Story category is as I understand it the most competitive fiction category (think about how many short stories are published each year and you’ll see why). While I think the three short stories I wrote last year are pretty good, the number of short stories published last year of equal or greater quality is, shall we say, reasonably large. I also suggested my humor video for the Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form Category, and again, I thought it was pretty good. But if I had to choose between it and “Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury,” well. I’m not voting for me in that scenario. I’ve got me an ego, but come on. All of which is to say that this year I wasn’t exactly waiting up for the nomination e-mail.

So: no. Not upset in the least and in fact quite happy for my friends who get their turn in the Happy Fun Anxiety Barrel that is the time between now and the Hugo awards ceremony. I hope they enjoy it as much as I did when it was my turn.

Minicon Wrapup

First, the daughter models the Minicon 46 convention shirt, whilst staring dramatically into the distance. She’s going places, that kid. With my head in a jar to boot! And yes, it was a little… odd to see folks wondering around the convention with my pickled head on their chests. Nice, mind you. But… odd.

Minicon itself, however, was a lovely experience. As I’ve mentioned here a number of times, I was Minicon’s substitute Guest of Honor, filling in for Charlie Stross, who unfortunately had to bow out (and entirely reasonably so) for some personal reasons. I was happy to be the Substitute Charlie for the weekend. It also gave me an excuse to visit Minnesota again, which is a state which has some of my favorite people in it (or has them lurking nearby). And both Krissy and Athena came along, lured by (among other things) the siren call of the Mall of America.

I may have been the Substitute Charlie, but the folks at Minicon — con staff and attendees both — made me feel welcome. The con folks couldn’t have been nicer or more attentive, in particular my liaison Anton Petersen, who procured a sparkly unicorn for my daughter when, upon hearing that the role liaison was to get things a guest requests, whimsically asked for one. That’s dedication for you. The convention goers also seemed happy to have me there, judging by the attendance at the panels.

My panels were also a lot of fun, as was my reading: As I was the Substitute Charlie, during my reading session I read from his upcoming novel Rule 34 (with his permission, of course) and then read from my own upcoming novel — not Fuzzy Nation but the one after that, which presumably will be out in 2012, and then also read the first chunk of “The Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book One: The Dead City: Prologue” in a Shatneresque voice, because if ever there was a story that was demanding to be read in a Shatneresque fashion, it’s that one. A particular highlight for me, however, was the live presentation of my Creation Museum photo slideshow. I wasn’t entirely sure it would work, but as it turns out it did, and people seemed suitably entertained. I’ll be likely repeating it at the SFContario this November, so now you have another reason to head to that convention.

I liked the vibe of Minicon; it’s a small con (I understand it used to be much larger, but then a schism occurred and the larger portion reconstituted itself into another convention) and many of the folks who attend it have been going for years and years, so it’s got a relaxed feel of a gathering of friends, which I suppose is best exemplified by its music circles, in which people bring their guitars (and drums and violins and etc) and then just play along together in a spontaneous and improvised fashion. My fellow guest of honor was Chas Somdahl, who was being honored for his music, both at previous Minicons and elsewhere; it was fabulous to watch him in the music circles and to listen to him and other play.

The only annoying thing to happen wasn’t the fault of the convention: Our rental car’s battery died, just as we were heading to the airport. But even then the invaluable Anton took my family to the airport while I waited for the service folks to give me a jump, showing that Minicon goes the extra mile (or in this case, the extra six and a half miles, that being the distance from the hotel to the airport) for its guests. As I mentioned at the closing ceremonies, I was the Substitute Guest of Honor, but the folks at Minicon made me feel like I was their first choice, and that was a lovely thing to feel. I do hope that Charlie does eventually get a chance to come out to Minicon; if it’s as good to him as it was to me, he’ll have a fine time.

Spanish Android

Waiting for me when I got home from Minicon: A whole box of the Spanish-language version of The Android’s Dream. It is very pretty in person. And now I know how to say “fart” in Spanish. Truly, a fantastic day.

Also, hello: I am home from Minicon. More about that later, almost all of it good, but for now, it’s nice to be home.

Heading Home

Minnesota has been lovely but now the police are closing in it’s just time to head back to home sweet home. I’ll catch up with you all probably in the evening. Try to continue to respire until then.

The 2011 Hugo Nominees

For your edification, this year’s nominees:

Best Novel
Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis (Ballantine Spectra)
Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)
The Dervish House by Ian McDonald (Gollancz; Pyr)
Feed by Mira Grant (Orbit)
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)

Best Novella
“The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen’s Window” by Rachel Swirsky (Subterranean Magazine, Summer 2010)
The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang (Subterranean)
“The Maiden Flight of McCauley’s Bellerophon” by Elizabeth Hand (Stories: All New Tales, William Morrow)
“The Sultan of the Clouds” by Geoffrey A. Landis (Asimov’s, September 2010)
“Troika” by Alastair Reynolds (Godlike Machines, Science Fiction Book Club)

Best Novelette
“Eight Miles” by Sean McMullen (Analog, September 2010)
“The Emperor of Mars” by Allen M. Steele (Asimov’s, June 2010)
“The Jaguar House, in Shadow” by Aliette de Bodard (Asimov’s, July 2010)
“Plus or Minus” by James Patrick Kelly (Asimov’s, December 2010)
“That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made” by Eric James Stone (Analog, September 2010)

Best Short Story
“Amaryllis” by Carrie Vaughn (Lightspeed, June 2010)
“For Want of a Nail” by Mary Robinette Kowal (Asimov’s, September 2010)
“Ponies” by Kij Johnson (Tor.com, November 17, 2010)
“The Things” by Peter Watts (Clarkesworld, January 2010)

Best Related Work
Bearings: Reviews 1997-2001, by Gary K. Wolfe (Beccon)
The Business of Science Fiction: Two Insiders Discuss Writing and Publishing, by Mike Resnick and Barry N. Malzberg (McFarland)
Chicks Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the Women Who Love It, edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Tara O’Shea (Mad Norwegian)
Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century, Volume 1: (1907–1948): Learning Curve, by William H. Patterson, Jr. (Tor)
Writing Excuses, Season 4, by Brandon Sanderson, Jordan Sanderson, Howard Tayler, Dan Wells

Best Graphic Story
Fables: Witches, written by Bill Willingham; illustrated by Mark Buckingham (Vertigo)
Girl Genius, Volume 10: Agatha Heterodyne and the Guardian Muse, written by Phil and Kaja Foglio; art by Phil Foglio; colors by Cheyenne Wright (Airship Entertainment)
Grandville Mon Amour, by Bryan Talbot (Dark Horse)
Schlock Mercenary: Massively Parallel, written and illustrated by Howard Tayler; colors by Howard Tayler and Travis Walton (Hypernode)
The Unwritten, Volume 2: Inside Man, written by Mike Carey; illustrated by Peter Gross (Vertigo)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, screenplay by Steve Kloves; directed by David Yates (Warner)
How to Train Your Dragon, screenplay by William Davies, Dean DeBlois & Chris Sanders; directed by Dean DeBlois & Chris Sanders (DreamWorks)
Inception, written and directed by Christopher Nolan (Warner)
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, screenplay by Michael Bacall & Edgar Wright; directed by Edgar Wright (Universal)
Toy Story 3, screenplay by Michael Arndt; story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton & Lee Unkrich; directed by Lee Unkrich (Pixar/Disney)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
Doctor Who: “A Christmas Carol,” written by Steven Moffat; directed by Toby Haynes (BBC Wales)
Doctor Who: “The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang,” written by Steven Moffat; directed by Toby Haynes (BBC Wales)
Doctor Who: “Vincent and the Doctor,” written by Richard Curtis; directed by Jonny Campbell (BBC Wales)
Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury, written by Rachel Bloom; directed by Paul Briganti
The Lost Thing, written by Shaun Tan; directed by Andrew Ruhemann and Shaun Tan (Passion Pictures)

Best Editor, Short Form
John Joseph Adams
Stanley Schmidt
Jonathan Strahan
Gordon Van Gelder
Sheila Williams

Best Editor, Long Form
Lou Anders
Ginjer Buchanan
Moshe Feder
Liz Gorinsky
Nick Mamatas
Beth Meacham
Juliet Ulman

Best Professional Artist
Daniel Dos Santos
Bob Eggleton
Stephan Martiniere
John Picacio
Shaun Tan

Best Semiprozine
Clarkesworld, edited by Neil Clarke, Cheryl Morgan, Sean Wallace; podcast directed by Kate Baker
Interzone, edited by Andy Cox
Lightspeed, edited by John Joseph Adams
Locus, edited by Liza Groen Trombi and Kirsten Gong-Wong
Weird Tales, edited by Ann VanderMeer and Stephen H. Segal

Best Fanzine
Banana Wings, edited by Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer
Challenger, edited by Guy H. Lillian III
The Drink Tank, edited by Christopher J Garcia and James Bacon
File 770, edited by Mike Glyer
StarShipSofa, edited by Tony C. Smith

Best Fan Writer
James Bacon
Claire Brialey
Christopher J Garcia
James Nicoll
Steven H Silver

Best Fan Artist
Brad W. Foster
Randall Munroe
Maurine Starkey
Steve Stiles
Taral Wayne

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer
Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2009 or 2010, sponsored by Dell Magazines (not a Hugo Award).
Saladin Ahmed
Lauren Beukes
Larry Correia
Lev Grossman
Dan Wells
Note: All finalists are in their 2nd year of eligibility.

Congratulations to all the nominees this year! The Hugo Award winners will be announced August 20, at Renovation, in Reno, Nevada!

Happy Easter

Just a quick check-in here to let you folks know I am still alive and kicking, just busy with stuff here at Minicon, which has been a lovely convention so far. Full report on that later, when it’s done (we still have stuff on the schedule for today). Hope your Easter is everything you want it to be, if you celebrate it, and if you don’t, well, you can still eat the ears off the chocolate bunnies.

For the Doubters

I say, I’m in Minnesota. Doubters say, pics or it didn’t happen. I say, FINE. Here’s yer lousy, stinkin’ view from the hotel room picture. I hope you’re happy. Also, someone needs to explain to me that ski jump over there on the left.

In Minnesota + Interview

Arrived yesterday at the Minicon hotel, met the con chair and my liaison, and was taken to a suite large enough that you have to take light rail to get from one room to the next (all right, maybe not actually that large, but damn, it’s very nice). This was followed by dinner with the con folks and the other GoH, who was then having a get-together in his suite that I fully intended to get to, but then I got back to my own rooms and it felt like an elephant had stepped on my head; a combination of being awake since 5am and a food coma. So I slept in until just a few minutes ago. Which was not a bad thing. Now I’m off to have breakfast with an old friend of mine. Then I will FIGHT CRIME. Or take a nap. Probably a nap.

But, you say, what about us? Have I nothing for you to keep you suitably amused this day? Actually, I do: Another interview! This one is with Library Journal, which is putting me on the cover of the May 1 edition. In this interview (which is an excerpt of a longer one that will run in the magazine), I talk more about Fuzzy Nation, the writing life, and, of course libraries. I think it’s my first cover story. I’m all a-squee. Enjoy.

Off to Minnesota

Where, as noted several times, I’ll be the Substitute Guest of Honor at Minicon 46. Come by! We’ll be having good, old-fashioned geeky fun. I’ll be sad if you’re not there. People will come up to me, concerned, asking why I am so inconsolable and weepy. And I’ll say, “Why, it’s because [insert your name here] is not here with us, to enjoy our festivities.” And they’ll say “Yes. It is sad that [insert your name here] could not be here. Now there is a pall upon all our revelries.” And we will all weep anew.

So be there, damn it.

Anyway. Off to catch flights, will be busy through the weekend, updates here will be brief, check the Twitter feed to keep up with me, etc, you know the drill. Will be back here in full force on Monday. Also, if it applies to you, have a happy Easter weekend (and if it doesn’t, have a good weekend anyway).