Monthly Archives: May 2011

Chapters 3 & 4 of Fuzzy Nation at io9

Yesterday, Tor.com offered up the first two chapters of Fuzzy Nation for your sampling delight — now io9 follows up with chapters three and four, in which Jack Holloway makes the acquaintance of a small, furry creature. No, not ALF. ALF appears nowhere in this book. I just want to make that clear at the outset.  I’m talking about a Fuzzy! Sheesh. In any event, give chapters three and four a whirl, and I hope you enjoy them.

Oh, and the io9 link contains awesome “process” sketches of the scene from cover artist Kekai Kotaki. Worth the click in themselves!

Summer SF/F Film Preview

Because it’s that time of the year, over at the FilmCritic.com I talk about the upcoming science fiction and fantasy films of the summer, and which ones I think will be worth the time to see. And for fun I grade them not with letters or stars but with “meh,” “w00t!” and “gaaaah!” Because that’s more fun. Go take a look, and then also let folks know which of the films you’re looking forward to, in the comment thread over there.

Fair Warning on the Next Four Weeks

Just so you all know, for much of May, Whatever will be new book intensive, i.e., there will be a lot of stuff about Fuzzy Nation going on here. The reasons for this are as follows (and fairly obvious):

1. Hey! I’ve got a new book coming out! And it’s my first full-length novel in three years, the last being Zoe’s Tale in 2008. So I’m excited about that.

2. Hey! I have to promote the new book! Which means talking about it a bunch, particularly during the month of its initial release, and particularly when I’m touring for the book.

3. As noted above, I’ll be touring for the book, which means I will be on the road for three weeks, from May 10 (when the book is released) through Memorial Day weekend. This means both I will likely not be updating as frequently as I generally do — because I’ll be busy traveling and doing appearances — and that I will be in a cognitive bubble that keeps me focused more on the book and less on everything else in the world. So when I do pop in, it’ll likely be to talk about the tour and other stuff about being on the road. This is not to say I won’t talk about other stuff at all; it is to say that based on experience I know on what I will be spending most of my brain cycles between now and the end of the month.

I’m not apologetic about this focus — selling books is how I make my living, you know, and I have no problem with that part of the deal. But I think it’s fine to give all y’all a head’s up about it. If the Whatever gets too promo-happy for you in May, come back in June.

That said, May should be fun around here. The last time I toured there was always something interesting to write about, and I suspect this time will be no different. And there will also be the usual schedule of Big Idea entries from other authors to keep you amused. It won’t be boring around here, is what I’m saying.

Read the First Two Chapters of Fuzzy Nation

The release of Fuzzy Nation is now exactly one week away, and to get you excited about it — as if you were not excited enough alreadyTor.com has chapters one and two available for your perusal, in which we meet Jack Holloway, the book’s protagonist, learn of his unusual way of setting off explosives, and get a sense of his people skills, such as they are. Enjoy. And if you like them, rumor has it that tomorrow, io9 will feature chapters three and four. It’s like a dream come true, it is!

Also, being that it is “run-up” week for the book, I will have all sorts of surprises coming up for you over the coming days. Oh, so many surprises. Well, mostly just excerpts and giveaways and stuff like that. Which I suppose really isn’t all that surprising, is it. Well, look surprised when it happens anyway, okay? Thank you.

The Big Idea: Kevin Hearne

Author Kevin Hearne had a novel way of getting to his novel Hounded – a way that involved equal parts of geekery, stubbornness and alcohol. Given who the constituency is here, I know I now have your attention. Or more accurately, Hearne has your attention, and I’ll give him the floor now to explain how each of those things found itself transmuted into the first book of a new urban fantasy series.

KEVIN HEARNE:

I confess that Hounded was spawned from an episode of Defiant Drunk Nerd Syndrome. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, I can explain briefly: When nerds get drunk with their nerd friends, they often suggest crazy hypotheticals and then try to defend them from the scornful derision of all the other nerds. Sometimes the shot-down nerd will remember the argument the next day, approach it soberly, and then deliver (defiantly) his proof that his drunken idea was, in fact, quite a good one. “So there!” may or may not be added to the end of the proof.

Here is the original drunken idea I offered to my nerd friends: “You know what would be badass? A Druid in the modern world! He could shapeshift an’ talk to animals an’, like, throw oil executives into their own spills, an’ the pelicans would be like, how does JUSTICE feel, son?”

The assault on this idea was swift and terrible.

Nerd 1: “The Druids are all dead, dumbass. Can’t happen.”

Nerd 2: “Yeah. The Romans and St. Patrick wiped them out.”

Me, Nerd 3: “Oh. But still.”

“But still” in nerdspeak signals a temporary concession, yet allows the nerd to rally at a later date with a spirited riposte.

My research began the next morning. I needed to figure out a way to plop a genuine olde-tyme Druid into the modern world. Doctor Who’s TARDIS seemed out of bounds. So did Doc Brown’s flux capacitor. What if one of the old Druids never died? I searched for Irish longevity myths, and it turned out that there were several ways a lad could have managed it, if we choose to read the old legends about the Tuatha Dé Danann as histories. The herblore of Airmid (she knew 365 herbs and what to do with them), the ales of Goibhniu (better than Guinness, I understand), or the hogs of Manannan Mac Lir (the Bacon of Youth!) each had the potential to provide a fellow with wrinkle-free skin.

That’s when I started thinking seriously about writing an urban fantasy novel. A truly ancient Druid walking among us, talking to his dog and shapeshifting like the old myths said they could? I couldn’t wait to write it! Atticus and Oberon were “born” right there.

Fine. I still had to figure out what happened to get Atticus out of Ireland, how he survived centuries of war and why he hasn’t saved all our forests. Further immersion in old Irish tales (and Irish ales) eventually suggested several possibilities. It would almost have to have been an Irish antagonist who drove him from the Emerald Isle—the Brits and the Vikings didn’t cause much trouble in Ireland until the Druids were all but dead. Fortunately, there were a few dastardly types among the Tuatha Dé Danann who could easily step into the role of villain. There were also tales of a magical sword named Fragarach that could cut through any armor. It was originally the sword of Manannan Mac Lir, god o’ the sea, but he gave it to another god, Lugh Lámhfhada, and Lugh gave it to the legendary first-century Irish king called Conn of the Hundred Battles. There is no record of Conn ever giving it back, nor of anyone using it after that time. Aha, I said to myself, now there’s a story waiting to be told.

If Atticus took that sword from Conn and the Tuatha Dé Danann wanted it back, that would explain why he had to flee Ireland and lie low. And when he finally gets tired of running and decides to make a stand—well, that’s going to be a fight worth watching.

The Consistency Gremlin spoke up at that point and said if I was going to treat Irish myths like history, then I’d have to do it for all myths. All pantheons would be alive, all gods equally valid, just as their worshippers imagined them. Whoa.

The story began to snowball: I didn’t just have an idea about a Druid and his dog anymore, I had an entire planet’s worth of myth and history to explore in a series. Once Atticus stops hiding, he and Oberon have to watch out for each other as not only the Irish, but the pantheons of the Norse, Chinese, Finns, Russians, Romans, and Native Americans seek to use him for their own ends.

I hope everyone enjoys the result of my Defiant Drunk Nerd Syndrome. To my nerd friends, I would like to add: So there!

—-

Hounded: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|IndieBound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt of Hounded. Visit the author’s blog. Follow him on Twitter.

Athena Wishes to Express Her Enthusiasm For the Hardcover of Fuzzy Nation

The author copies of which just arrived at the Scalzi Compound. They look fantastic.

Speaking of Fuzzy Nation, I wrote about it (and its relationship to fan fiction) today for the Tor newsletter, so if you subscribe to it you should have it in your e-mail queue. If you don’t subscribe to the Tor newsletter, well, first, shame on you. But, also, here’s an online version of the article.

And yes, I will give away a copy of the hardcover before the end of the week. Not today, though. I’m crazy busy today.

Osama, Obama, and Us


(Image ganked from Andrew Sullivan)

And now, some further thoughts on the death of Osama bin Laden.

* In a very practical sense, bin Laden’s death doesn’t change anything, particularly in the short run. He’s been on the run for years, al Qaeda is designed to be decentralized, the scope of our military operations in the Middle East far exceed the boundaries of bin Laden’s group. Today we still have troops in Afghanistan, and their job there will not be any easier today than it was yesterday. The Middle East itself is not the same region it was a decade ago; it seems to have developed a home-grown taste for democracy. So on and so forth.

But in an existential and psychological sense bin Laden’s death makes a huge difference. Dude’s been out there for years, and the fact The Most Powerful Country in the World™ couldn’t get to him was an overarching narrative frame for much of what else the US did in the last decade. But in the end we did get to him, and the frame has changed. No longer was the US engaged in a futile pursuit of a man who killed thousands of our citizens and would die of renal failure far out of its reach; now the US engaged in a ceaseless pursuit, and in the end bin Laden received a form of justice from his actions, i.e., an American bullet in (or as seems likely more accurate, through) the brain that conceived of 9/11.

Changing the frame from “hapless” to “implacable” means something to us as Americans and also, I expect, means something to others as well, particularly for the folks for whom “bin Laden is laughing at the US” was part of their worldview. What effect the existential impact of bin Laden’s death will have on the practical life of the US and the rest of the world over the long term is something we’ll get to find out in the coming months and years. No matter what, however, bin Laden will still be dead, and that has a cathartic, and I optimistically suspect in the long run useful, finality all its own.

* In the immediate aftermath of Obama’s announcement of bin Laden’s death last night I saw some folks on my Twitter feed note that it was too bad we killed him rather than captured him and put him on trial. I would have been happy with that as an outcome, but I can’t say that I would have been happier with that outcome than what actually happened. Bin Laden killed in a firefight with US operatives, none of whom were killed? All right then. No complaints on this end and good shooting.

There would have been some pleasure in seeing him in the dock, being confronted with his crimes, ably represented by the best defense his money could buy, getting buried by the evidence, and then kept in a tiny cell for as long as we could keep him alive. But inasmuch as I expect that bin Laden was akin to the types who maintain that a fringe on a court flag means its a court of the admiralty and therefore can’t try them for tax evasion — and was perfectly happy to have murdered lots of innocents in any event — this works too. I don’t imagine bin Laden was hoping to spend many days in a courtroom, either. In this one thing I don’t feel it to have been much of an imposition to oblige him.

* As the image at the top of this entry suggests, the fact that a closet Muslim socialist WHO ISN’T EVEN AN AMERICAN is the one who gave the order to kill the bogeyman who has haunted the US for a decade will be a terribly inconvenient fact for a lot of folks. Well, let it be. If only for it moment, it serves to remind us that the job of a president is a serious one, while the job of tearing down a president can be done by morons, and often is. This definitely puts Obama’s birther jabs at Donald Trump over the weekend at the White House correspondent’s dinner in a whole new context; as someone else has noted, Obama’s not a guy you want to play poker with, because he’s got the straightest face in the business.

People are already speculating what this means for Obama in 2012. I think it means that any rumblings about a Democratic primary challenge are now done. It also makes it more difficult for the GOP to paint him as Carter II: The Quickening, although of course they certainly will try to do so; they can’t help themselves, and I think at this point the Democrats would invite them to keep trying. In a larger sense, if the economy falters Obama will still be vulnerable in his quest for a second term. But if it’s coming along, then 2012 won’t be a happy presidential election cycle for the GOP. Dude had bin Laden killed. Kind of hard to top.

The Faces of Penguicon 2011

I wanted to test out my shiny new camera this weekend, so I took it with me to Penguicon and proceeded to snap a few hundred pictures with it, with a particular emphasis on portraiture. Basically I wanted to see how it handled. As it turns out, it does very well, as I think this Flickr set of Penguicon Portraits will show. It did help that the hotel lobby in which almost of the pictures were taken is, as someone else noted, “a natural lightbox”; there were windows on the ceiling which let in a lot of natural light and generally speaking the entire lobby area was well lit and congenial to snapping informal head shots.

For those interested in the nerdy details, I used a Nikon D5100 with the kit lens and set on auto (I wanted to see how good the auto setting was) and without flash. The pictures are jpegs rather than raw format with minimal post-processing in Photoshop. If I had saw raw format I would have had somewhat better control of the pictures in Photoshop, but even just as jpegs the camera gave me a lot to work with. In all I’m pretty impressed with the D5100 for snapping candids and quick pictures of people. I’ll fiddle with it more, of course.

The picture set linked to above is largely of people I know, plus a few other folks whom I snapped (generally with their knowledge). There are several, however, whose names I don’t know (and in at least a few cases, people whose names I should know, or used to know, but which I am now blanking on because I suck). So if you’re one of those unnamed people, or know who those unnamed people, please leave a comment at the Flickr set so I update with accurate information. Thanks.

As for the convention: Well, I spent it hanging out with friends at the bar, so I had fun at the very least. It does seem like everyone else had a pretty good time too. I’ll be back next year, not in the least because I’ll be one of the Guests of Honor. But I’d be back even if I wasn’t.

Photobombed by Chewie

There are certain things that can only happen at a science fiction convention. Being photobombed by Chewbacca is almost certainly one of them. You are sad it did not happen to you.

In other news, “Photobombed by Chewie” is the name of my next band. We play Meco covers.