Monthly Archives: April 2011

Pseudonyms, etc

I was asked, apropos to the Scott Adams thing, if I ever walk the Internets in a guise other than myself and/or bearing a screen name that does not make it clear who I am.

The answer is no, and for two primary reasons. The first is that it’s a hassle to remember a whole bunch of pseudonyms depending on which site I’m at; it’s easier just to be me at all of them. The second reason is that I’m not particularly concerned whether the words I post online are attributed back to me, since my personal opinion on the matter is that it’s better for me to own my words than not. I have had pseudonymous screen names before, waaaaay back in the day, because at the time it was what you did; the one I used most often was “Edwin Booth,” who was a famous 19th century actor and also a distant relative of mine. But for my day-to-day social Web wanderings I can’t think of a site I currently use for which I have a pseudonym.

This is not to say that I think no one should use pseudonyms online; there are reasons some people are more comfortable doing that, and I wouldn’t gainsay those reasons (unless it’s to be a sockpuppet for yourself, in which case you’re still an idiot). But for me, meh. I’d rather be me.

But it’s also the case that generally speaking I don’t do a huge amount of commenting elsewhere on the Web at this point, either. I have here, and then I also blather on Twitter and (to a much lesser extent) Facebook. Between those three I pretty much say what I want to say. Outside of those, the only place I regularly comment is Metafilter (the place where Scott Adams got himself in trouble) and occasionally in the comment threads of friends’ site. But usually when I want to say something, I say it here. That’s what here is for.

Easter Creatures

Over at the FilmCritic.com this week, I’m doing the sort of in-your-face, no-holds-barred, let-the-chips-fall-where-they-may, keeping-it-awesomely-real investigative report that you’ve come to expect — nay, demand — of me: I’m looking at which science fiction film creatures could, in a pinch, replace the Easter Bunny.

That’s right, people. It is on. They might as well just mail me next year’s Pulitzer right now; there’s no point waiting an entire year and getting anyone else’s hopes up.

As always, feel free to leave your own comments/questions/etc over there.

Elaborately Self-Justified Sock Puppets Are Still Sock Puppets

I’m trying to puzzle out the logic of this Scott Adams blog post justifying the use of a sock puppet on Metafilter, and I have to tell you it’s not making a whole lot of sense. Basically he’s got an elaborate explanation for why he wanders about online anonymously, related to his fame and how it gets in the way of what he’s actually saying, and, you know, fine, whatever. But the thing he appears to be skipping over is that what he’s been using his anonymity for is to tell people about Scott Adams.

That being case: Dude. There’s a manifest difference between going out anonymously online to talk about other things, and going out anonymously online to be your own PR flack. No amount of elaborate self-justification changes the fact you’ve been engaging sockpuppetry, and sockpuppetry is both obnoxious and sad. Own up to it, take your lumps and move on, and additionally accept that being famous and opinionated means that someone somewhere is going to think you’re an ass. That really is the deal. The logical gymnastics to explain away the sockpuppetry and declare victory over the Internets(!) just makes you look like you’re twelve, and the sort of twelve that always has to win. Which is a tiresome sort of twelve.

Some time ago, I essayed what one should do when one is tempted to use a sock puppet. Here is that bit again, because it’s as relevant today as when I wrote it four and a half years ago, with a few edits to make it pertain to the situation at hand:

“But wait!” I hear you say. “What if I sign go online and post my retorts under an entirely different name? Then I have the satisfaction of responding, but no one will know it’s me!” Yes, well. The term for using a fake name to respond to comments is “using a sock puppet,” and if you’re going to engage in sockpuppetry, this is how you should go about it:

1. Put a sock over each hand. You may decorate the socks to taste. You’ve made sock puppets!

2. Dip each sock, hands still inside, into the largest vat of honey you can find.

3. Feed sock-wrapped hands to the brown bear you have procured for just such an eventuality.

Once again, after the bear has finished its delicious little snacky-snack, you’ll most likely neither have the means nor the desire to respond to those mean and nasty people online. And what a relief that will be! Now you can turn to more important things, like plotting your next work, training your voice-operated word processor, and developing a Zen-like detatchment regarding what people say about you online. You’ll feel better. And they’re doing amazing things with prosthetics these days.

Yup. As noted: true then, true now.

Interview at GeekDad

Over at Wired’s site today, I’m being interviewed about Fuzzy Nation, science fiction and the writing life and about being both a geek and a dad (which is appropriate because I am both). The interview goes into some detail about my choice to reboot H. Beam Piper’s novel Little Fuzzy and why I think (or at least hope) it helps to lead to further interest in Piper’s work. Go check it out.

A Nice Thing For a Tuesday Morning

Apparently Whatever topped the SFX Magazine reader’s poll for Best Celebrity Blog. Awww, thanks, folks. I appreciate the vote of confidence, and am still mildly amused that I constitute some version of a “celebrity.” I was recently asked by someone to quantify my celebrity, to which I said “Well, I was a Q-list celebrity, but then I got my movie deal, so now I’ve rocketed up to the N-list.” That still sounds about right. If you click that link above, you can also find out which blogs won in the other categories. And if you’re interested who were the other nominees in the celebrity category, that link is here.

Let Claritin Season Commence!

And here’s Daisy, initiating the annual “cut-grass-and-pollen dance,” signaling the joyous time of year when I ingest allergy medicine or suffer sinus pressure roughly equivalent to the pressures found at imminently exploding supervolcanoes. It’s a special time of year, it is.

Another Starred Review for Fuzzy Nation

w00t! Kirkus Reviews is the one handing out the star this time, and says this about the novel:

An acclaimed modern sci-fi writer adds depth and unexpected poignancy to a “reboot” of H. Beam Piper’s classic 1962 novel Little Fuzzy… In a genre flooded with bloated epics, it’s a real pleasure to read a story like this, as compactly and directly told as a punch to the stomach.

Well, then. The entire review is here. Check out the particularly amusing last line.

Also in: The review from Library Journal. The whole review is here (scroll down), but here’s the verdict:

Scalzi readers as well as Piper fans should enjoy this modern throwback to sf’s early years.

I’ll take that.

There’s also a fine review of the book at Stomping on Yeti, which reads thusly:

In Fuzzy Nation, Scalzi executes flawlessly, proving that Piper’s core concept is just as relevant today as it was fifty years ago with a pitch perfect summer sci-fi novel that both embraces and enhances the source material.

Excellent. It’s nice to have reviews starting to come in on this one.

Adding Phoenix to My Book Tour

Hey! Are you or is someone you love, close to the Phoenix, Arizona metropolitan area? Then you’ll have a chance to see me there this May, because I will be there for two — count them, two! — events.

1. I will be a guest at the Phoenix Comicon, where I will be doing panels and signing books and (probably) dancing like an idiot at Geek Prom;

2. I will be doing an event at the Poisoned Pen bookstore in Scottsdale, on Saturday, May 28 at 5pm, along with fellow author Sam Sykes, who as some of you may recall I do not wish dead.

To see me at the Phoenix Comicon you will need to buy a membership; the event at the Poisoned Pen will be open to everyone.

Hope to see you at one or the other (or, heck, both!).

Wil Wheaton’s Doppelganger Will Serve You Now

When I was in Austin I went to dinner with friends, and one of the wait staff here was this guy, who looked enough like My Pal Wil that I felt it necessary to take a photo of him and post it here. I don’t know if he gets a lot of the “dude, you totally look like Wil Wheaton” thing, but you know what? Now he will.

Austin in general: Lovely. It was my second time in Texas’ capital city, and for the second time I liked it a whole lot. Since my only other experience with Texas at this point has been airports, it would be a little early to call it my favorite city in the Lone Star State, but I can say it’s a city I would be happy to revisit again soon.

The TLA conference was also really good — my booth signing went through all the books we had, which is what you hope for, and then the panel I was on (with Pat Rothfuss, Elizabeth Moon, Jonathan Maberry, Maria V. Snyder and Ryan Brown) was both well attended and lots of fun to be on. Plus I got a little quality time in with Pat and Paolo Bacigalupi, which is always a good time.

Yes, the having my departing flight delayed into oblivion by high winds and thereby leaving a day late kind of sucked, but I don’t blame Austin or the TLA for that. So thanks, Texas, for a fantastic time. And for the Wil Wheaton lookalike, which was the cherry on top of the whole Texas sundae.

Saturday Morning in Dallas

I was supposed to be home by now, but high winds and the storm system running across the country kept me in Austin another night, which I spent in high style, at the Holiday Inn Express near the airport, at which I ordered in pizza and was out like a light before 10pm. Now I’m in Dallas, awaiting my flight to Dayton. The life of a science fiction writer is always intense.

How is your Saturday?

The Big Idea: Janni Lee Simner

Janni Lee Simner’s latest novel Faerie Winter features a world in change — moving from state of being to another in a way that’s both dramatic and unprecedented. But how to tell of that dramatic change, especially when the writer’s own personal experience with the sort of change being described is vastly different? For Simner, it meant going deeper, and taking a closer look at the world she lived in.

JANNI LEE SIMNER:

I began writing Faerie Winter during the early scorching days of a desert summer–dragon season, when the sun stings my eyes, the hot wind caresses my skin, and any object left too long in the sun (seatbelts and steering wheels included) can turn hot enough to raise blisters when touched.

The book is, of course, about winter. Because the universe has a sense of humor that way.

Not an ordinary winter, either, but the protagonist–Liza’s–first real winter. Faerie Winter is a sequel to Bones of Faerie, and Bones of Faerie was set in a world where the deciduous trees–trees that had developed a taste for human blood and bone during the war with Faerie–were now always green, no matter how cold the air.

In Faerie Winter those trees drop their leaves at last, and sixteen-year-old Liza is faced with winter’s endless gray for the first time. Most of us believe instinctively that gray winter will give way to green spring eventually. We’ve seen it happen, year after year, all our lives–as Liza, who struggles to believe in spring, has not.

Except … that transformation from gray to green isn’t a desert transformation, either. Winter isn’t the season where we feel cabin fever here in Tucson. It’s a season of bright green plants that soak up the desert rains, of gray skies that only last a day or two at a time. It’s a season when we long to be outdoors.

So as I wrote, I did all I could to remember different seasons, the seasons of my more deciduous childhood and young adulthood. While I slathered on sunscreen, I thought of how one winter, when I lived in the Midwest, the sun didn’t come out for three weeks straight. While I pulled on my broad-brimmed sunhat, I thought of what it was like to have wind bite through my scarf and gloves, to feel like no matter what I did, I could never get my feet warm. While the swamp cooler strained to cool my house and even my computer seemed to give off far too much heat, I dug through my old photos, and searched Flickr for terms like “snow Missouri,” and asked lots of questions of friends living in more northern climes.

Eventually the dry dragon’s breath air of early summer gave way to monsoon-season stickiness of late summer, and I developed the desert version of cabin fever: an increasing reluctance to go outside, an increasing impatience with all the small hassles of day-to-day life, an increasing desire to estivate until, say, November. In June, I love and welcome the desert heat. By August–well, by August nothing anyone says around here should be taken too seriously, because by then we’re all thoroughly tired of the heat and of each other. We’re ready for the weather to break, for a new season to come.

Sounds … familiar. Sounds pretty much like how I once felt when I went three weeks without seeing the sun.

Understanding winter isn’t really about describing gray sky and white snow in sufficient detail. It’s about remembering what winter feels like, deep down, about remembering the bone-numbing despair that can make us fear that better days are never really going to come.

Really, summer in southern Arizona was the perfect time to write this book.

Really, that sort of despair can come in any season and in any clime.

But harsh seasons aren’t only about despair, in Liza’s world or in ours. I know people who leave Tucson before summer begins and return only after it ends. I understand why they do, but I also feel like they’re missing something. Summer here is difficult, sure, but that doesn’t mean I’d want to skip it entirely; my year would feel strangely incomplete if I did that. I’ve heard friends say the same thing about their snowy gray winters. They struggle with winter, but they love it, too, and claim they couldn’t live further south because they’d miss it too much.

Even Liza can appreciate her winter: the bright glint of sun on ice, the unexpected freedom of walking safely in a forest that all her life has sought her blood. I wonder, sometimes, how long it will take her to see gray as an expected part of her year, too–and if she’ll ever believe, as so many of us instinctively believe, that of course spring will come.

—-

Faerie Winter: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|IndieBound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s LiveJournal. Follow her on Twitter.

Off to Austin

For to sign books and do panels at the Texas Library Association conference. As I am traveling today and then will be busy scribbling in books, I’ll probably be scarce around here today. But do check my Twitter feed, I’ll probably be updating there.

If you’re going to be at TLA, I’ll be doing a booth signing today at 2pm; I’ll be at booth #2225. Tomorrow I’ll be doing the panel “Science Fiction: Beyond Earth’s Boundaries” at Room 19 AB, Level 4, starting at 10am. Don’t miss it! Because if you miss it, I and my co-panelists will be talking to an empty room. And that would be sad.

Anyway, I’m off. Catch you all later.

My Wife’s New Toy

We got the new mower a week ago, but fate (and rain) kept it and my wife apart. No longer! Here she is, happily ensconced in its chair, subjecting the lawn to its first whirring slice-ination of the year. As you might be able to guess from her expression, shortly after I took this picture she tried to run me down with the machine. The life of John Scalzi, Domestic Paparazzi, is a dangerous one.

Obama’s Deficit Reduction Speech

Since I know some of you will want to discuss it (politely), here’s the place to do it. For those who haven’t seen it yet, here’s the text. I normally point to the New York Times for stuff like that, but in deference to those of you with paywall issues, I’m pointing to Talking Points Memo instead.

I’ve only skimmed the details, so my thoughts on it are preliminary. But preliminarily speaking, it generally seems to be up my alley, which considering my general consanguinity with Obama’s thinking on these matters, is not surprising. It’s also not surprising to me that the GOP plans to throw a fit about it, as they do with everything regarding Obama and/or the idea that the wealthiest among us might be able to survive a tax increase. Speaker Boehner mouthed the following platitude yesterday: “We don’t have deficits because Americans are taxed too little, we have deficits because Washington spends too much.” Well, no. We have deficits because of both, actually. It’s not an either/or situation, and the GOP’s inability to recognize that fact is the most obvious reason it is not to be trusted with the economy.

There’s lot for Democrats to be unhappy about too, but, eh. Look. We’re not in a place where people are going to be happy. We’re in a place where everyone has to take some hits. In a general sense, I’m for even distribution of those hits.

I’ll probably have more to say later, but in the meantime, feel free to discuss amongst yourselves. Remember that the Mallet of Loving Correction is warmed up and ready to go, so please keep spittle-flinging to a minimum and to respect your fellow commenters. I thank you in advance.

Update, 3:39pm: Here for me is the heart of Obama’s speech, talking about those on either side of the political spectrum who will disagree with his budget approach, and a crystallization of the general pragmatic nature of the man of which I approve:

Of course, there will be those who disagree with my approach. Some will argue we shouldn’t even consider raising taxes, even if only on the wealthiest Americans. It’s just an article of faith for them. I say that at a time when the tax burden on the wealthy is at its lowest level in half a century, the most fortunate among us can afford to pay a little more. I don’t need another tax cut. Warren Buffett doesn’t need another tax cut. Not if we have to pay for it by making seniors pay more for Medicare. Or by cutting kids from Head Start. Or by taking away college scholarships that I wouldn’t be here without. That some of you wouldn’t be here without. And I believe that most wealthy Americans would agree with me. They want to give back to the country that’s done so much for them. Washington just hasn’t asked them to.

Others will say that we shouldn’t even talk about cutting spending until the economy is fully recovered. I’m sympathetic to this view, which is one of the reasons I supported the payroll tax cuts we passed in December. It’s also why we have to use a scalpel and not a machete to reduce the deficit – so that we can keep making the investments that create jobs. But doing nothing on the deficit is just not an option. Our debt has grown so large that we could do real damage to the economy if we don’t begin a process now to get our fiscal house in order.

Finally, there are those who believe we shouldn’t make any reforms to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security out of a fear that any talk of change to these programs will usher in the sort of radical steps that House Republicans have proposed. I understand these fears. But I guarantee that if we don’t make any changes at all, we won’t be able to keep our commitments to a retiring generation that will live longer and face higher health care costs than those who came before.

Indeed, to those in my own party, I say that if we truly believe in a progressive vision of our society, we have the obligation to prove that we can afford our commitments. If we believe that government can make a difference in people’s lives, we have the obligation to prove that it works – by making government smarter, leaner and more effective.

As they say: yes, this. I’m well-off enough that I benefit from the GOP’s oh-so-tender care of the rich, and while I think it’s interesting that so many of you are of the opinion that the top tranche of my earnings must be defended at all costs from an extra three percent of taxation, I’m here to tell you that I will be fine. All of us up here will be fine. No, when I get my tax bill each April I’m not thrilled at the lump sum going out of my accounts. But what I will be less thrilled about  in the long run is an insolvent country driving our economy into the crapper and possibly taking the rest of the planet with it. An extra 3% from the top chunk of my earnings is a small price to pay. And before some smartass says in it the comments, it’s not enough for me to pay that extra amount; all the other well-off bastards like me should do it too. We can take it, honestly, we can.

Likewise: Christ on a pony, anyone who can’t see that screws need to be put on spending is nuts, but not every spending cut is equal, and some are better than others for the overall well-being of the US. I’m okay with some pain when it comes to government spending, but I’d prefer it to be healthy pain that promises a more healthy body when its done. And even then, not everything I personally want the government to do is going to be spared. Not everything you want it to do is going to be spared either. That’s where we are at the moment.

Obama’s smart enough to know that what he’s going to get out of Congress with this will look nothing like what he proposes, but I wouldn’t mind too terribly if it was close to it eventually. We’ll see where everything goes from here.

Multiple Revenue Streams, Revisited

Yesterday I rather cryptically announced on Twitter that at that moment someone was using me as an example of something; that person was Cory Doctorow, in a Twitter discussion with author David Hewson about writer career models. Hewson wrote about how he wouldn’t take career advice from Cory, which precipitated a rather long Twitter conversation between the two in which I was brought up by Cory as an example of a writer who has several revenue streams. Other writers, including Nick Harkaway and Suw Charman-Anderson, also pinged in; Charman-Anderson saved the Twitter conversation and also posted her additional thoughts here.

Leaving aside the specifics of Cory’s own personal brand of income generation, the general discussion seems to be about revenue streams, and whether book authors can/should have a second (and third, fourth, etc) income stream burbling along, complementing the book income writing stream. Hewson appears to be of the opinion that not every author can muster that second revenue stream; Cory argues for the value of a multistream career, and the others chime in with thoughts and points to make in support of Hewson or Cory’s general position.

Most writers, mind you, have multistream careers whether they want them or not; they have day jobs. For the successful few who manage along without one of those, I think it’s better to have multistream careers than not, for the simple reason that you never know when a line of income is going to evaporate, and when it does, it’s best it’s not your only way of making money. Also, again, I don’t think most full-time writers have a choice about whether to have a multistream career, since generally speaking, when it comes to writing, most income streams don’t offer enough to live comfortably on.

If you are someone who makes enough from writing one sort of thing — usually books, but not always — that you can argue that writers shouldn’t have to have multiple streams of revenue, well, then. Excellent for you. But you’re in a small minority of all working writers, and you should probably recognize that. Even among those folks, mind you, I would recommend multistream careers if you can manage them. Because that extra cash is nice to have (and to save, hint, hint).

Pursuant to the above, I think it’s worthwhile to make a distinction between two different types of writer revenue streams: The ones that support the writing, and the ones that come as a consequence of the writing. In the former camp you have things like day jobs, and writing gigs you get without reference to the main thrust of your writing career (or perhaps more accurately, what you would like the main thrust of your writing career to be). In the latter camp you have things like movie options and speaking engagements. They are important distinctions to make because the latter are both quantitatively and qualitatively harder to get and to keep. Any writer can get a day job of some sort to pay the bills. Not every writer will get paid by Hollywood, or get paid to show up and talk about their writing. For those, again, nice if you can manage them. I don’t know that it does anybody any good to lump those two categories together when making examples, however.

My overall thought on all of this is that if you can only write one thing and get paid enough for it that you don’t have to (or want to) do anything else, then do that — it’s nice to be you. Otherwise I’m a big fan of authors keeping their eyes open for opportunities and to be aware of the (distinctly relative) fiscal security that having more than one source of income can bring. I don’t think writers should be too proud about how they make their money, within the bounds of their personal ethics; it all spends (and saves) the same.