Monthly Archives: July 2011

Facebook-Related Announcement

It’s been clear for some time that my Facebook presence was getting progressively unmanagable, so I’ve gone ahead and done something that I should have done a while ago, which was to convert my personal account there into a public page. That means everyone who was friend requesting me can now just click on the “like” button and get access, which is a nice way to get around Facebook’s arbitrary and obnoxious 5k “friend” limit.

So if you’ve been waiting for me to friend you on Facebook, wait no longer! Just go over and “like” me and together we will happily traipse through the Facebook flower beds. Or something.

Personal Updatery, 7/25/11

Updates from the Scalzi Compound.

* For those of you who wondered whether I hit my deadline last Friday: I did not. BUT — as my deadline was Friday afternoon and the editor wasn’t going to do anything with what I sent in until today at the earliest, I finished up on Saturday and as a practical matter it was all the same. If you’re going to blow I deadline, I submit to you that’s the way to do it. The good news is that it’s done.

What is it? Some additional material I’m adding to the next Tor book. It’s not new stuff in the novel, which has been done for some time, but it’s a substantial amount of supplementary material which I think readers will enjoy quite a bit. It’s hard to describe without describing the novel itself, which I’m still not going to do yet. Sorry. I’m not trying to be a dick about it, but some of the fun will be in the reveal.

Since the supplementary material has been finished more or less on time, the book is right on schedule and I believe (don’t hold me to this) it’ll be out in June of next year. So if you were wondering when the next major fiction piece from me was going to be in stores, now you know.

* However, the new Tor book probably won’t be the only new book I’ll have out next year; I’m also likely to have a non-fiction release as well. That one’s still in the mid-to-late formative stages, so no real details yet; I’ll have more when things are little further developed.

* Also, as I noted in my FilmCritic.com column last week, the option for the OMW movie has been picked up again, and there’s currently working the script, so everything on that is going just peachy as well.

* Now that the latest deadline is past, the plan for the immediate future (i.e., the rest of July) is: Shoot zombies. As all right-thinking people should.

A Week of Silly Polls #4 & #5: Deadline Day!

A doubleheader for deadline day!

 

Now, don’t bother me. I’m WORKING.

 

The Enbifocalizationingness Has Ocurrinated

Or, in language that is slightly more related to English, I’ve got my new glasses, with bifocal lenses. Here they are. I went with progressive lenses and the glasses are rimless. I think they look fairly decent.

My first few hours of bifocals review: They’re doing what they’re supposed to, which is to keep text from being all fuzzy when I look at it close up. I’m aware of the change in focus when I look in various parts of the lenses, but so far it hasn’t been anything that’s too disruptive. It’s not making me fall over my own feet, which is what I’m hoping for here. So in all, this little bit of aging has passed along in a fairly painless manner.

A Week of Silly Polls #3: The End of All Things

The end is coming! Stock up on beans and pillows!

Bachmann’s Headache

E-mail from folks asking if I have anything to say about the report that Michelle Bachmann suffers from migraines so painful she needs medication for them. Sure, I have something to say: Migraines really suck, and if Ms. Bachmann does indeed suffer from them, I’m sorry for her that she does. I wouldn’t wish them on anyone.

As for whether they should somehow keep her from the presidency: I don’t think so. I think her apparent general ignorance and horrible political stances should keep her from the presidency. Her migraines aren’t even on my radar. That’s pretty much where I am on that.

A Week of Silly Polls #2: Find the Psychopath!

Because THEY COULD BE ANYONE.

The Big Idea: Ann VanderMeer

The challenge of creating an anthology is not just putting together excellent contributors on an interesting topic — it’s also how to make your collection stand out, so it’s irresistible to the people buying books. Ann VanderMeer has some experience with that: as a noted anthology editor (often collaborating with her husband Jeff), she’s always looking for new ways to engage potential readers while at the same time challenging creators to do their best. Her latest anthology is The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, and for this, her and co-editor Jeff VanderMeer’s strategy of engagement was artful, to say the least.

ANN VANDERMEER:

Every day you see new anthologies being released.  Some have very specific themes, some have loose ones and still others have none at all.  It’s difficult to make an anthology stand out in this sea of other books, not to mention when you consider all the other fiction options available in today’s publishing world.  So how do you capture the reader’s attention? One way is to fuse the visual and the text in such a way that you get a kind of hybrid between art book and fiction anthology. This approach also tends to make a case for the continued existence of print books. Our biggest, best experiment with this type of book is The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, just out from HarperVoyager. It features over 70 photographs, paintings, and illustrations in addition to fiction from the likes of China Mieville, Holly Black, Lev Grossman, Naomi Novik, and dozens of others.

Where did the Cabinet come from? We had done a previous anthology about eight years ago called The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases. It was presented as a fake disease guide—supposedly the 83rd edition of a real guide put out by the eccentric Dr. Lambshead, a man who had passed away in 2003 at the ripe old age of 103.  We had many requests to do a follow-up, but the last thing we wanted to do was another fake disease guide.  We wanted to do something, but what?

A lot of our Big Ideas occur when we go hiking (Jeff always carries paper and pen).  On one of our hikes we started talking about Lambshead’s house being a repository of hundreds of artifacts he had collected over his lifetime – indeed his entire house being a giant cabinet of curiosities.  Although the fake disease guide had had a visual element, it was clear this anthology would have to up the ante considerably.  So how about if this next book had images and stories from the cabinet?

We find that often the creators (both artists and writers) will do their most inspired work when we challenge them with something new and different—which is another reason to think outside the box when conceptualizing book projects.  Everyone connected to the Lambshead Cabinet was excited about the idea, and that led to it growing larger in scope. The final book has several sections and a framing story. It was hard work because the anthology had so many moving parts,  but the thought of holding the final book in our hands kept us going.

A few examples. Mike Mignola was so inspired by the idea that he created four images for us.  Mignola wanted to create artwork for Michael Moorcock to write to because they had worked together so successfully in the past. Moorcock, in turn, wrote one of my all time favorite stories. It concerns a missionary who allows himself to be miniaturized and then injected into the bloodstream of heathens so that he can convert them on the cellular level.  Needless to say, things do not go as planned and later tiny bits of missionary end up in the strangest places.

We also felt that the artist/photographer J.K. Potter matched this project perfectly.  He sent us this image (included).  We were blown away.  When asked how long it had taken him to put together this magnificent piece to photograph he replied “What are you talking about?  This is just a shelf in my house.”  And we knew we had the right artist for this project.

Then there is this absolutely crazy piece of old art that our friend (and partner in crime) John Coulthart found for us.  It shows a large man with a parrot on either shoulder peering at what I can only describe as a large singing fish.  So we asked Amal El-Mohtar if she could write story around that piece.  A few days after she said yes (and had already started writing), Jeff then asked her if she could also include something about a frog pulling a coffin with another frog in it (with wings) because we’d just gotten that image from another artist. Well, why not, right? Lucky for us, she said yes again.

Having the artists and writers riff of each other’s ideas and visions turned out to be a Big Idea.  With over 80 contributors, the book works on so many levels; beautiful to the eye and, yes, including eccentric tales, but also traditional stories, as well as micro-fictions and image captions that are an art form unto themselves. So we did finally, after years of thought, wind up with a worthy successor to the fake disease guide…and something readers should appreciate for all of the playfulness on display.

—-

The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|IndieBound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt.

Uh-Oh, It’s a Lifestyle

The folks at Mini, apparently in an attempt to make me feel like the sum I dropped for our new car has opened up new and aspirational lifestyle vistas for me and my family, sent us the small pile of Mini-related swag you see here. It includes a Mini bag, a blank journal to record all my travel, a pen, a card holder, a Mini-centered lifestyle magazine, and a happy face antenna ball.

It’s all very cute and the pen is actually useful (the antenna ball, alas, does not actually fit onto the antenna), but it doesn’t really convince me to descend any further into the Mini lifestyle. I mean, I do already like my car an embarrassing amount. But there’s only so many hours in the day, no matter how many nice, nubbly pens Mini tosses my way. I’m already well sunk into the writing geek lifestyle. I don’t want to have to change my wardrobe.

Bye Bye Borders

This is not terribly unexpected but still not good news:

There will be no storybook ending for Borders. The 40-year old book seller could start liquidating its 399 remaining stores as early as Friday.

The chain, which helped pioneer the big-box bookseller concept, is seeking court approval to liquidate its stores after it failed to receive any bids that would keep it in business… Liquidation sales could start as soon as Friday if the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Southern District of New York approves the move at a scheduled hearing on Thursday. The company is expected to go out of business by the end of September.

It’s not good news for the obvious reason: One less place for authors to sell books — well, 399 fewer places, as that is the number of remaining Borders stores at the moment. Our jobs just got that much harder. There are other less obvious reasons as well, but the obvious one is bad enough.

A Week of Silly Polls #1: Animals and Opposable Thumbs

I’ve got a project with a hard deadline of Friday, which means I don’t have a lot of time to play here this week. But I hate leaving you with nothing to do, so all this week, while I’m slaving away in the word mines, I’ll post up a couple of silly polls during the day to keep you busy. And here’s your first one:

Feel free to expound upon your answer in the comments.

A Small Observation Regarding Words and Releases

I’ve noted before that comparing one author’s process and career with another’s is a situation fraught with difficulty (and often, some stupidity), so take the following with a grain of salt. That said, for everyone who ever bitched about George Martin taking so damn long to write A Dance With Dragons, allow me to make the following observation:

George Martin’s previous novel, A Feast for Crows, came out in 2005, the same year as my novel Old Man’s War. Since OMW, I have written The Ghost Brigades, The Last Colony, Zoe’s Tale, Fuzzy Nation, and my upcoming 2012 novel (Agent to the Stars and The Android’s Dream were written prior to 2005). Martin’s written A Dance With Dragons. So I get credited with being reasonably prolific whilst Martin gets slammed by the more poorly socialized members of his fan base for slacking about.

The Ghost Brigades is about 95,000 words. So is The Last Colony. Zoe’s Tale is about 90,000. Fuzzy Nation and the 2012 novel are about 80,000. Add all those up, and I’ve written roughly 440,000 words worth of novels since 2005. A Dance With Dragons, so I am told, clocks in at 416,000 words. So, in terms of total novel words written for publication since 2005 (and omitting excised material), there’s a 5.5% difference between the amount that I have written for novels and what Martin has. If we’re talking about the actual words published, written since 2005, there’s a 13.5% difference — in Martin’s favor, because my 2012 novel won’t be published until, well, 2012.

Shorter version: During those years the unsocialized were snarling at Martin for being lazy or procrastinating or indolent or whatever, he wrote about as many words for novels as I had. By this superficial but easy-to-quantify metric, on the novel front he was as productive as I was, and most people seem to agree that I’ve been pretty productive these last six years. I just spread my words around five novels while he poured all of his into one.

Yes, but — some of you are about to say. To which I say, yes but what? Martin should have been releasing the story in smaller chunks? Well, and if he did, how much crap would he have gotten for milking his fanbase and releasing books that weren’t sufficiently complete as stories in themselves? The publisher should have sat on him to write faster? To what end? So he could have sold more books? Look, I’m a New York Times bestselling author and I sell perfectly well, thanks for asking, and by the end of its first week of sales, it’s entirely likely A Dance With Dragons will sell more hardcover copies in the US than I have sold of all my novels, in every printed format, since Old Man’s War came out in 2005. How many more books can one human reasonably be expected to sell? Waiting six years and releasing a novel large enough to herniate a small human works just fine for Martin. His publisher would be foolish to mess with that. And so on. Any “yes, but –” argument one can make can be refuted on entirely practical terms.

In the end it comes to this: Why did it take six years for A Dance With Dragons to come out? Because that’s how long it took. Martin wasn’t being lazy, any more than I or any other author lucky enough to be regularly published these days has been. One hopes that those who are already primed to bitch at Martin about why The Winds of Winter isn’t instantly on their shelves will keep this in mind. Martin’s writing as much as anyone. He’s just writing big.