Monthly Archives: September 2011

One Additional Library Thought

I’ve had a couple of people e-mail me to say that although the Redshirts library auction is over, they’re still interested in donating a little money to my library, and wanted to know how to do it. The answer is just to write a check to “Bradford Public Library” and send it to the address here.

However, if you’re feeling in the mood to donate to a library, may I suggest that you donate to your local public library? Trust me when I say that libraries all across this land of ours would be positively delighted to get a donation. They will almost certainly be able to use it, almost immediately. And while I’m sure the librarians in Bradford would be happy to see additional funds, they would also almost certainly agree that you helping the library that helps your community would be a fine and laudable thing. So give it some thought. Thanks.

Don’t Give Me Any Ideas

From time to time someone will send me an e-mail with an idea for a story or a novel, presumably because they’re not going to use it but they think it should be used by someone, and particularly by me. I think it’s a sweet and thoughtful gesture, and as soon as I recognize what’s going on (usually in the first sentence, and before I get to the actual idea being proffered), I stop reading, close out the e-mail and delete it. These e-mails don’t get an acknowledgement from me that I have read them.

Why? People, in the wide world out there, some people are crazy, and if one of them sends me an idea and later I write something even vaguely related to the idea they’ve sent me, there’s a possibility they will, in their craziness, try to sue me over it. Don’t laugh, such things have happened, and while these suits go nowhere, it costs money to make sure they go nowhere. If they try to sue me, an e-mail even acknowledging the receipt of their idea is going to be a pain in my ass. There’s no point helping crazy people make my life miserable. Unfortunately for the rest of you, who are sane and wouldn’t attempt to sue me in a fit of foamy foaminess, it means that as an exercise in excessive prudence, I’m not going to read or respond to your idea e-mail, either.

The best thing to do, when seized by the philanthropic desire to give me an idea for a story or novel, is not to. Know that I really do appreciate the thought, however. Know also, simply as a practical matter, that I already have a whole stack of really cool ideas for stories and novels that I’m working through, and to which I am constantly adding. I have more ideas than I have the ability to write them all out between now and the day I croak. Ideas are not the limiting factor, here. Time is. But thank you.

(Note this is different from the “Hey, let’s collaborate, I’ll give you the idea, you write it and we’ll split the money” thing I and every single author who’s ever existed in the history of time gets from people. The answer to this one is always no, really, let’s not.)

The Big Idea: S.M. Stirling

I often think to myself how lucky I am to have born when I was — not just in a general sense, but in the sense of being a writer. I swear, if I had to write a novel on a typewriter, I might just strangle myself with the ribbon instead. But it’s not to say I don’t think about what it would be like to live in a world that had changed — one in which every modern convenience goes out the window. As it happens S.M. Stirling has a very successful book series with this idea at its core, of which The Tears of the Sun is the latest. He’s here to explain that world, how it works, and how he himself would fare in the world he created.

S.M. STIRLING:

The Big Idea behind the Change series starts simple.  On May 15th, 1998, the island of Nantucket  is covered by a dome of colored lights.   At 6:15 pm (Pacific time) it vanishes, and the Change propagates around the Earth at the speed of light.   Every animal advanced enough to have a spinal cord feels a momentary subjective instant of intense pain and a flash of light.

An instant later it’s over… and all higher technology has ceased to function.  Nobody knows why; nobody can tell how.  Not for a long time, and even then they only get enigmatic hints.  Nobody can do anything about it, either.

Electronics stop working; internal combustion engines don’t combust to the degree necessary to work.  A blacksmith’s forge works fine; diesels don’t generate enough pressure to function.

Life without high technology… sucks, frankly, if you’re used to having the toys and then get them taken away.

We’ll leave aside the fact that I’d be dead several times over without modern medicine; multiple episodes of asthma and pneumonia in childhood, complicated problems with infected appendix(es); yes, I had two!  The surgeon was extremely surprised.

But I wrote my first book on a manual typewriter.  That was when ‘cut and paste’ actually meant cut and paste, or in my case using a lot of Scotch tape.  Not surprisingly, that book was also shorter than most of mine.  Partly that was because it was my first, and I deliberately restricted the number of viewpoint characters and the length of time covered to keep it simple to write.  A lot of it was the sheer mechanical difficulty and expense of doing corrections and rewrites.  I prefer to rewrite constantly, redoing each day’s work before starting on fresh material.  On a manual that was hideously difficult; it might not have been quite so hard writing longhand, but I can’t compose longhand.  It just doesn’t feel right.

Then there’s the sheer expense of writing materials in the old days.  When paper was made from rags collected from old clothing and made by hand, it was expensive.  You couldn’t afford much unless you were fairly well-to-do to start with.  Books cost at least the equivalent of several days work for an ordinary man.

Our technology affects us in ways we can’t imagine, or at least can’t imagine without research.  Take something basic like calories in and calories out.  Look at a photograph from an American city a century ago, and one of the first things that strikes you is that the number of overweight people is miniscule.

This isn’t because they were undernourished; not most of the native-born Americans, at least.  They ate more meat than we do, and had a diet very heavy in fats and starches besides.  They just burned more.

A lot of them did very heavy manual labor; one of my grand-uncles (he was in his 70’s when I met him, as a child of 6 or so) was fond of lard sandwiches.  He was still about the same weight he’d been as a teenager… when he went around Cape Horn on a windjammer, climbing the rigging to reef ice-covered sails in the storms.  The rest of his life was spent on fishing trawlers.  He smoked, too, and used to stub out his cigarettes on his palms, which were covered in callus like the shell of a turtle, which fascinated me as a child.

But even affluent people, below the very uppermost level, walked all the time.  They climbed stairs, if they lived in a city.  Being overweight was rare, and was a sign of unusual income and leisure.  It meant not only having enough to eat well and not work, but enough to have servants who handled the high-effort drudgery of daily life.  An immense amount of ‘stuff’ that we buy as processed goods or commercial services then had to be done yourself; hence the Victorian cookbooks which start a chicken recipe with ‘first kill, clean and pluck your chicken’.

A writer in a putative low-tech society is either going to be wealthy, or have a wealthy patron, or he’s going to fit his or her writing in between bouts of things like chopping wood.  I spend three hours a day at the gym, but it’s not the same.  I’ve experienced a little of those demands; I did a lot of odd jobs during the years I was trying to get established as a writer (including a memorable two-day stint as a bouncer) and I’ve worked at things like bailing hay and cutting down trees.  Even with modern equipment, by the end of the day you just want to eat and sleep.

In my Change books, of course, all the higher-tech toys are taken away.

It’s not quite a plunge into the Dung Ages, once the initial horrors are over.  A lot of the available technology is actually 19th-century; the difference between cutting grain with a horse-drawn reaper and doing it with a sickle is actually about as great as that between a horse-drawn twine-binder and a combine.  But the drop in productivity is an immense shock to the people who do survive.

My initial protagonist is a folk-singer and Wiccan priestess named Juniper Mackenzie who has a place in the country and keeps horses and a big garden… and she’s shocked by the degree of sheer hard graft necessary to live.  A farmer she works with is moved to comment that he thought he knew what hard work was like, but that he had a new appreciation for his grandparents!

(I took that from talks I’ve had with farmers, and from things I saw living in Africa as a teenager.)

The Change isn’t a return to the past, though.  It’s a world in which modern people are forced to embrace a lot of aspects of the past; but the synthesis is quite new.  In a way the books are, like the Nantucket trilogy, an experiment in mass time travel.  Using bits and pieces and salvaged wreckage and memories of the past (including a lot of mythology and folk-memory which has very little to do with the actual historical experience) modern people have to create something new.

And it makes a great canvas for stories!

—-

The Tears of the Sun: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt from the novel.

A World Without Star Wars

What would have happened if in 1977, instead of releasing Star Wars, George Lucas released… nothing at all? The science fiction and film worlds would be very different, is what. I detail some of the differences in my FilmCritic.com column for the week. Go and read it and tell the world your own thoughts in the comment. That’s the way it should be. That’s the way it must be.

“Redshirt” Auction: What it Brought In (Hint: More Than You Think)

So the “Redshirt” auction ended last night on time, and the fabulous Brad Roberts took the pre-pub bound manuscript of the novel — and two rare chapbooks, and two even rarer pre-pub bound manuscripts, and a song played by me on the ukulele and a schadenfreude pie, which I will likely deliver in person to him at 4th Street Fantasy next June — all for $7,000, all of which will be donated directly to the Bradford, Ohio Public Library. I am thrilled. Positively and utterly thrilled.

But wait! There’s more!

Shortly after the auction ended — like, minutes — I received an inquiry from someone else:

I lost the auction, but I have a question. If I donated the difference between the winning bid and $10,000, would you give the winning bidder the items for $10k?

To which I responded, “Why, yes. Yes, I would.”

So: In fact the auction has raised $10,000 for the Bradford, Ohio Public Libraryand there will be a black velvet painting of me and Brad Roberts fighting aliens WITH LASERS. Which is going to be awesome. Brad will also receive the $8,000 and $9,000 tier gifts, which means his name (or the name he choose) will show up in my next major work, and I will write a short story in which (or the person he chooses) is the hero.

Surprise, Brad!

Don’t worry, as the currently-anonymous benefactor will also receive rewards for his generosity, including a special prize package filled with cool stuff (which cool stuff I don’t know yet, but I’ll go through my cool stuff here presently and he’ll be thrilled), plus he’ll receive an official, signed ARC edition of Redshirts from me when Tor releases those later on this year — and when he cracks it open he’ll find a character named after him in the novel itself. Hey, I have the copy edit of the book right here in front of me, I can still do that.

So thank you, currently-anonymous benefactor! You are fantastic.

(He’s currently anonymous mostly because it’s fun to have him remain so at the moment, but he can out himself if he likes in the comments, or later on with his permission I’ll reveal who he is.)

Please, if you would, give a moment to applaud Brad. He’s doing a really wonderful thing for my local library and I am genuinely thankful that he stepped up. He earns my admiration along with all the groovy stuff he’s getting. Also say thanks, if you would, to the currently-anonymous benefactor, for putting the financial cherry on top of Brad’s donation, and for giving me an excuse to commission that black velvet painting, which I really really really wanted to do.

And everyone who put in a bid, please take a bow as well. You guys rock.

LAST DAY for the “Redshirts” Auction to Benefit the Bradford, Ohio Public Library

Yes! It is the last day! You have only until 11:59:59pm Eastern time to get your bid in to win the pre-publication bound manuscript of my upcoming novel Redshirts, plus a raft of other goodies, the bounty of which only increases as the bids go up. As of this writing the current bid is $6,000, which means that at the very least the winner will get everything you see in this picture, plus a rare signed hardcover edition of Agent to the Stars, plus the song of their choice performed by me on the ukulele. If the bid gets to $7,000, someone is getting pie. And I’m still hoping we get to $10,000, because damn it, I want an excuse to unleash that black velvet painting unto the world.

How will we get to those numbers? Simple: if someone bids them. All the details and the thread for bidding are right at this link. And remember that all the proceeds will go to the Bradford, Ohio Public Library. Which, incidentally, is now aware the auction is going on; I didn’t tell them but clearly someone did, because I got a very nice e-mail about it from the president of the library’s board of trustees. They are, as you may imagine, delighted. So thanks to everyone who’s bid so far: You’ve made a librarian’s day. More than one librarian’s day, even!

Go Maroons

The New York Times has a nice write-up about the football team of my alma mater, the University of Chicago, and what the sport means to a place where the students are proud of the reputation of the school being where “fun goes to die.” (The answer is: Not much, and fun doesn’t actually die there, it just becomes very very nerdy.) We’ve been Division III for decades but we were once national champions (106 years ago, mind you). But being Division III suits us better, I suspect. Anyway, a nice insight into my school for those of you who are curious.

The Big Idea: Christopher Buehlman

You can admire literature for the craft that an author puts into his or her words, but the words are supposed to be working too — building a world that thrills or chills you — and a writer’s real craft is in creating work that does both. Debut novelist Christopher Buehlman has been thinking a lot about that balance, not just for his own novel Those Across the River, but in how other writers have pulled off the trick… or didn’t. Here are his thoughts.

CHRISTOPHER BUEHLMAN:

I spent much of my adult life as a disappointed horror fan; as a teenager, I reveled in the work of Stephen King, whom I will always respect for his massive contributions to the horror genre, and whose early novels remain high on my shelf. As I broadened my reading, however, I discovered that, all too often, the book that thrilled my dark side and the book that made me drunk with its use of language were not the same book.

How many of us, and by ‘us’ I mean the psychic masochists who dare writers to reach into our minds and tickle our amygdalas, have suffered through awful prose, two-dimensional characters or poorly-researched historical passages just to get our spooky little fix? When did horror and literature sign their divorce papers? They got along so well in Frankenstein, after all. I will say that Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House is the finest modern example I can name of literature and horror working together. Hill House’s bastard child, The Shining, is so damned scary it can be easy to forget what a fully realized character Jack Torrance is, and how credibly entwined the history of the Overlook hotel is with the ghoulies that set up shop there–but I will go to the mat for The Shining; it holds up.

After that, though, the list gets skinny.

My favorite mainstream books (i.e., books in which all the monsters are on the inside) were mostly written in the first half of the twentieth century, and they usually involve broken protagonists and doomed or unrequited love. Two authors dominate that landscape for me. F. Scott Fitzgerald was the prettiest one. He had such a luscious prose style, and so deeply understood the narcotic effects of love and the need to be in love. Hemingway, too, with his yang, shirtsleeves gallop, knew how to tell a love story and break our hearts with it. And there was something so compelling about the excesses of Fitzgerald’s 1920’s, and the way the Depression knocked everything down and brought us eye-to-eye with Hemingway’s earthiness.

Robert Penn Warren was a big influence, too. All the King’s Men was that rare beast, a high school lit assignment that I actually enjoyed. At fifteen, I didn’t have the palate to appreciate most of the hoary old classics they yoked us with, but in Penn Warren’s masterpiece I found the language so delicious and the story so compelling that I burned through it and revisited it about once a decade thereafter. It didn’t hurt that he was a first-class poet as well as a novelist. The depression-era southern setting, the haunting love story and the idea that secrets won’t stay buried fascinated me, still fascinate me, and resonate in Those Across the River.

My biggest literary debt goes further back than the 1930’s, though. The skeleton of Those Across the River is borrowed from Greek mythology. I didn’t stick to the story slavishly, of course, any more than Penn Warren did in his exploration of the Oedipus myth, or Steinbeck when he used Exodus as the bones of The Grapes of Wrath; but the basic structure is there, and mythology enthusiasts should be able to identify which narrative I’m playing with.

So there you have the Big Idea. Horror, love, myth and historicity. I desperately wanted to read a horror novel that was also a well-written and evocative human story.

So, gods willing, I wrote one.

—–

Those Across the River: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Follow the author on Twitter.

 

“Questions for a Soldier” in Subterranean Magazine #8

For a number of years now, the only way you could get “Questions for a Soldier,” the first short story I wrote set in the Old Man’s War universe — and which features John Perry making an early appearance on the colony of Huckleberry — was to get the increasingly rare chapbook version, which is these days selling for something in the $150 range (there’s a reason one copy is part of the Redshirts auction I’m running at the moment). But soon there will be a more affordable option: the final print edition of Subterranean Magazine is at press and will feature the story, along with stories by Michael Marshall Smith, Tim Lebbon, Sarah Monette and others. All for $6! What a steal.

(Although for collectors, there will also be a special $80 limited hardcover edition of the magazine, which will be signed by me and other authors. I have the signature sheets in my house right now.)

Subterranean Press says: “We’re not seriously overprinting this issue, which will not be available in bookstores, so please feel free to order and guarantee you snag a copy.” Translation: Get on it.

“Redshirts” Auction Update

First: Gaze upon the Redshirts manuscript, returned to me by the copy editor and full of red marks. Full! Which is to be expected; while I am not a copy editor’s worst nightmare, neither are my manuscripts complete cakewalks. I will be spending the next few days going through the changes and making sure I don’t have any problem with them. I forgot again to note that I am not a fan of the serial comma (this is my journalism background coming to the fore again), so I’m sure I’ll have some STETs there. That said, I’m a fan of a good copy edit — it makes me look smarter — so I don’t imagine I’ll have too many arguments.

Second: The “Redshirts” auction is going swimmingly: In one day, the bid is up $4,700, so that’s at least $4,700 the Bradford Public Library will have coming its way. Naturally, I am thrilled, and would be even more thrilled to see the bid go up higher from there.

I’ll admit that what I really want is for someone to bid $10,000, so I have an excuse to commission a black velvet painting. So if you have ten grand burning a hole in your pocket, you just let me know. I’m sure my local library could find a use for it, and then you would have the most magnificent work of art since the Velvet Wesley. I’m just saying.

German October Tour Itinerary

I promised folks I would post dates on my German tour when I had them, and here they are — most of them in any event. I do not have all the details regarding time/cost of event for some of these things, so if you’re in Germany and want to see me and I don’t have all the information here, please contact the venue at which I will be for more details. I’ll also post updates and information when I am in Germany on my Twitter feed.

October 15: Frankfurt: I’ll be doing a reading as part of the Frankfurt Book Fair’s “Open Books” event. Not sure of the time yet; I’ll update when I know. Update: The appearance information is here.

October 16: Frankfurt: I’ll be in the Book Fair itself, likely hanging out at my publisher’s table. If you’ll be attending, swing by the Heyne booth.

October 17: Saarbrücken: I’ll be doing an event at the Deutsch-Americanisches Institut Saarbrücken. Please contact them for the details. I assume it will be in the evening.

October 18: Stuttgart: My event will be at the Deutsch Americkanisches Zentrum, at 19:00. Details are here.

October 19: Tübingen: I’ll be at the Deutsch-Amerikanisches Institut Tübingen, at 20:15. Details are here.

October 20: Freiburg: I’ll be doing something in association with the Carl-Schruz-Haus here. My understanding is that it might be at the local planetarium, which would be interesting. Please contact them for the details.

October 21: Munich: I’ll be at Amerika Haus here, at 19:30. Details here. Admission will be free.

October 22: Munich: I believe there is to be another event on this day, with Conrad Tribble, the head of the US Consulate in Munich. But I don’t know yet if it’s open to the public. Let me find out and update when I have more details.

As to why I am going to these cities and not other cities in Germany, the answer is that my itinerary was chosen by the US State Department and I’m going where they want me to go. This is not to say that I would not be delighted to see other parts of Germany at some point in the future. But for this trip, this is where I’ll be. Hey, take a road trip. Heck, you can get from Hamburg to Munich in seven hours! That’s a snap.

So that’s my itinerary. As noted I will update when I get more information, particularly for Saarbrücken, Freiburg and the second day in Munich.

See you there!

(PS: As of this writing, Der Wilde Planet has been the #1 science fiction book on Amazon.de for a full week. Dear Germany: I totally love you so much. See you soon, folks.)

The Big Idea: Jennifer K. Chung

Quick — you have to write a novel in three days. What do you do? What do you do? Jennifer K. Chung knows: She wrote her novel Terroryaki! for the 3-Day Novel Contest that takes place each year — and won the contest. Along the way Chung learned what writing under intense pressure can do to your story (and to your brain). What does it do? And what does it mean for the tale you’re trying to tell? Come find out!

JENNIFER CHUNG:

The International 3-Day Novel Contest has been called many things, and it probably deserves all of them — “bizarre”, “the world’s most notorious literary marathon”, “a fad”. Held annually over Labor Day weekend, it’s exactly what it sounds like — you write a novel in three days. It’s like National Novel Writing Month, without the month.

Going into the weekend, I knew two things: I wanted to write about family, and I wanted to write about chicken teriyaki.

Coming out of the weekend, I learned that three days and no outline may produce unexpected results.

Chicken teriyaki is near-ubiquitous in Seattle. It’s still got nothing on coffee, but there’s more teriyaki than Italian. There’s more teriyaki than seafood. There’s more teriyaki than sushi. In Seattle, chicken teriyaki is unavoidable, but few people have written about it. Yet, its omnipresence can make one… obsessive. Noticing. Wondering, “How can that intersection possibly support three teriyaki joints?” They’re as bad as Starbuckses.

Minor detail: I’m a vegetarian. Perhaps it’s its forbidden nature that consumed me. So I puked it out of my system — I wrote a character who could obsess about chicken teriyaki on my behalf. Teriyaki by proxy, I suppose.

She’s a sister with a sister, like me. It’s a relationship I know quite well, though we’re on opposite sides of the dynamic (Daisy is a younger sister; I’m an older sister). I’ve lived with my own sister for most of my life, and I wanted Daisy to feel that mixture of affection and baggage that you get from growing up with someone so closely.

She’s Taiwanese-American, like me. She didn’t have to be, but it made the family easier — not because Daisy’s parents are my parents, nor Daisy’s sister my sister, but so I could start with a cultural baseline for experiences. Besides, it’s not like the literary world has a glut of Taiwanese-American protagonists.

She’s obsessive (like me..?). When she’s not slinging chicken at her part-time teriyaki gig, Daisy is on the lookout for new restaurants to try. Daisy’s eaten at most of the teriyaki joints in Seattle, and she has an opinion on every single one. She’s a teriyaki specialist with a blog full of detailed restaurant reviews. After a chance meeting in a suburban parking lot, Daisy is obsessed with finding a certain teriyaki truck — a ghostly truck, operated by a cursed soul. Think the Flying Dutchman, except he’s running a Seattle food truck staffed by the damned. It’s not so outlandish; food trucks are gaining traction in the city, and everyone knows Jesus Christ made Seattle under protest (as the street mnemonic goes).

Okay, maybe a little outlandish. Daisy reacts the only way she can, the same way any other young female slacker would — by asking out loud, “Is this guy for real?” And, of course, by trying to visit the truck enough times to write a thorough review.

Sometime during the contest, I also discovered a plot about Daisy’s sister getting married — much to my chagrin. I’m an unmarried, ambitious, thirtysomething woman, and that wasn’t the story I’d meant to write. Still, it kept the sisters busy when they weren’t chasing down a damned (but tasty) food truck which had been forsaken by God, and it let me explore the family relationships further. So it goes.

But let this be a lesson about writing freely under intense pressure — you might be dismayed by what you find. Or maybe you’ll just make yourself hungry.

—-

Terroryaki!: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Learn more about the 3-Day Novel Contest.

Why Ellen Ripley is a Problem for Science Fiction Film

Over at FilmCritic.com today, I talk about who is the best female science fiction film character in history (you should be able to guess from the picture and headline) and why that’s actually a problem for science fiction film — not for the character herself, but what it means for the genre. Check it out and as always feel free to leave your thoughts and comments there.

“Redshirts” Auction to Benefit the Bradford, Ohio Public Library

The short version:

I have recently delivered to my publisher my latest novel Redshirts: A Novel With Three Codas and am offering a special pre-publication bound manuscript version of the novel to auction to benefit the Bradford, Ohio public library. This is an exclusive and extremely rare version of this novel (only four other copies of this edition currently exist; no more than ten will ever exist) and all other copies will be given to personal friends and family. This will be the only way for a member of the general public to read the novel prior to its official publication in June, 2012. To encourage bidding, as specific bidding levels are reached, other very rare pre-pub manuscripts and/or chapbooks will be added to the pot. All money raised by this auction will go to the Bradford, Ohio public library. Bidding details are below. READ THEM BEFORE BIDDING. Bidding is open until 11:59:59 Eastern, Monday, September 19, 2011. Opening bid is $100.

The long version:

Who am I?
I’m John Scalzi. I am a New York Times bestselling author of science fiction, nominated eight times for the Hugo Award (including three times for Best Novel, for Old Man’s War, The Last Colony and Zoe’s Tale). My novel Old Man’s War is currently optioned by Paramount Pictures; Wolfgang Petersen is attached to direct. I was Creative Consultant for the television show Stargate: Universe. I also write non-fiction (including the Hugo-winning Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded), and keep a personal blog, Whatever (which you are reading now).

What is Redshirts?
It is my latest novel (which to be clear is not a Star Trek novel), which combines classic space opera action with humor, snappy dialogue and, as the title suggests, lots of gratuitous, ensign-level death. Actor Wil Wheaton, who has read the novel, describes it as “F**KING AMAZEBALLS HILARIOUS AND AWESOME” (all caps his), and who are you to doubt him? The novel comes with three codas: Short stories relating to, but independent of, the novel itself.

What should we know about this edition of the novel?
That it is not a final version of the novel. It is a bound edition of the final manuscript — which means it hasn’t been copy edited. All the author’s idiot spelling and grammar errors are still in there (sorry), and there may be a slight variance textually from this edition and the final published edition (the plot details, however, will not change).

In exchange for putting up with these pre-production flaws, however, you will have a chance to read the book long before even the critics and booksellers do. Moreover, only five copies of this edition of the bound manuscript exist currently and no more than five additional will be made. One copy I’m keeping; the rest go to family and those to whom the book is dedicated. For collectors, this is a rare opportunity to have something literally no one else can get.

(As such I will also be asking you to refrain from sharing outside your own household until the official ARCs of the novel come out later in 2011. I suspect this will not be a problem).

Will it be signed?
Yes, I will be happy to sign it and (if requested) personalize it to you or whomever you designate.

Why donate the proceeds to the Bradford Public Library?
One, because I am a big believer in libraries and their role in our cities and towns. Two, because it and many other Ohio libraries have been hard hit in the last few years with budget cuts that have resulted in reductions of service just when their patrons have needed them most. Three, because it’s my library, and I’d like for them to know I appreciate everything they do for my town. Four, because the librarians there are lovely people and it will be fun to surprise them (I haven’t told them I’m doing this yet. So if you’re a librarian at the Bradford Public Library: Surprise!).

What’s this about extras?
To encourage you all to bid silly amounts of money, I’ll be adding new cool stuff to the pot at $1,000 (and then larger) increments. What extras? Well:
$1,000: Your choice of either Questions for a Soldier or How I Proposed to My Wife: An Alien Sex Story, two very rare short story chapbooks of mine from Subterranean Press.
$2,000: A very rare (one of six) pre-pub bound manuscript edition of Utere Nihil Non Extra Quiritationem Suis, my novella from the METAtropolis anthology.
$3,000: Both short story chapbooks will now be yours.
$4,000: A recording of me, playing on the ukulele, a song of your choice.
$5,000: A very rare (one of five) pre-pub bound manuscript edition of Fuzzy Nation, entitled That Super-Secret Project That I Cannot Tell You About.
$6,000: A Subterranean Press hardcover edition of Agent to the Stars, with cover artwork by Penny Arcade’s Mike Krahulik. Rare and difficult to find.
$7,000: I will bake you a schadenfreude pie.
$8,000: Your name, or the name you choose* will be inserted into my next major project.
$9,000: I will write a story, of no less than 2,000 words, in which you (or whomever you choose) will be the hero.
$10,000: I will commission a large black velvet painting of the two of us, fighting space aliens WITH LASERS.
$17,500: I will dedicate my next book to you**
$25,000: A special, one-of-a-kind “sneak preview” edition of my next novel, whenever that is (it will be reasonably soon; I have to eat, you know).
$50,000: I will travel to any place in the continental United States, present you (or whomever you choose) with the complete, signed John Scalzi collection, take you/them to dinner***and at the end of the evening read you/them a bedtime story written especially for you/them and then play you/them a lullaby on the ukelele. Travel dates to be decided between us but in probably in the next 12 months.

(* The name has to be something non-profane, please, as my next major project will be meant to sell to lots of people; also, if you choose the name of someone who is alive, get permission from them, please.)
(** It may also be co-dedicated to someone else, but no more than one other person.)
(*** Dinner site within a 100-mile radius of where you live, please. Invite whomever you’d like to come but the cost of dinner is not to exceed $1,000, because I am not made of money, I am sorry to say.)

Needless to say, each bid plateau will include everything else below it, so if you bid $50k, wow, you’ll get a lot of stuff. But you’ll have earned it, I say.

How will the auction work?
You must enter a verifiable e-mail address to bid.
1. Bid here on the site. Bidding begins at $100. Each new bid must increase the former bid by at least $5. If two bids are made at the same level, the first bid offered is the official bid. You may not increase your bid until someone else bids higher.
2. Until $1,000, bidding must be in increments of no more than $25 (this is to discourage trolls and fake bidders). From $1,000 to $5,000, bidding may be in increments of no more than $100. From $5,000 to $10,000, bidding may be in increments of $250. From $10,000 forward increments of $1,000 are acceptable.
3. However, if any point I am contacted privately by a bidder who wishes to jump the bidding to a specific prize plateau (say, she’d like me to bake her a schadenfreude pie), if I am convinced it’s a serious bid, I’ll go into the thread and raise the bidding to that level. This is the only way to jump ahead.
4. I reserve the right to disqualify any bids if I do not feel they are legitimate. If I do, I will pop into the thread, note the disqualification, ban the bidder if necessary and reset the bidding at what I believe was the last legitimate bid level. If it appears to me the bid thread is being swamped with fake bids I may halt all bidding while I figure out the way to deal with it. I reserve the right to cancel the auction entirely.
5. After the auction ends I will contact the winner via e-mail (this is why you need a verifiable address). You will need to respond to that e-mail within 24 hours or I will assume you were not a serious bidder and contact the next highest bidder. So please be looking for my e-mail!

How and when will you donate the money from the auction?
I won’t; you will. I will forward you the information you’ll need to make the donation to the Bradford Public Library directly. You will need to send the money within three business days or be disqualified. When the check has arrived and is deposited by the library into its bank account, I will mail out all the goodies (you will have to authorize the library to tell me that the check has cleared, etc). This way you’ll also get any applicable tax deductions.

How will the item(s) get to me?
I will ship it/them to you, worldwide, without charge (if you’ve won the pie and you live internationally we may have to figure something out). When I ship it I will provide you with the tracking number so you will know where it is and when it’s going to get to you.

Can I tell others about this auction?
I hope you will! Please, feel free to tell anyone you’d like.

If you have any questions, please let me know through e-mail (john@scalzi.com) — I want to keep the comment thread open for bids only.

Quick Takes on Two Things of Passing Literary Interest

As they have been of interest to folks:

The YAGay Thing: Which is, briefly, two authors shopping a YA novel were offered a deal by and agent if they swapped the sexuality of a character from gay to straight; they refused and wrote about it here. My particular take on it is that the authors did the right thing by saying “thanks, no,” and that in general there should be gay characters in YA because a) surprise, there are gay folks everywhere and b) in my opinion as a father, there’s not a damn thing wrong with my child encountering gay folks in her literature, because see point a).

As a writer I include gay/bi characters in my books and stories because, again, see a), and at no point have I gotten any push back about it either from my agent or from my editors, or from any of my publishers. I got the tiniest bit of push back from some readers about “An Election,” whose main character was gay and same-sex married, but my opinion about that was, they’ll just have to live with it.

But then again, I haven’t written any YA, other than Zoe’s Tale (which, from a publishing and marketing point of view is something of a special case). I’m pretty sure if I was writing YA, that I wouldn’t have a problem with adding a gay character into the mix if I thought the story needed it; I’m also pretty sure that if I got push back at any point about it, I’d tell them they’d just have to live with it, too. But I also recognize I have some weight to throw around at this point.

The Amazon Rental Thing: Amazon is apparently floating the idea of a Netflix-like book rental scheme for its Amazon Prime customers, in which (the article suggests, as a rumor) those Prime customers might be able to rent a certain number of older book titles per month.

I know nothing about this other than this very sketchy report, but as an author I’m not especially in love with the idea in principle. One, as a practical matter, readers interested in renting books (including, increasingly, e-books) can do it through their local libraries, and I would much rather have such a “rental” scheme go through that channel than through Amazon. Two, as an author, I’m not sure how cutting the legs off my backlist titles at the behest of a retailer (of all people) benefits me in the long run; Amazon would have to make a very solid argument that authors would not be financially hurt by the scheme, and I doubt they could make it.

Three, even if Amazon convinced publishers to do this, which seems doubtful, I am skeptical that publishers typically own the rights for such a rental endeavor in any event, which puts the ball back into the author’s court. In which case see point two. I suspect even the authors high on the idea of cheap e-books would take pause at the idea of free rentals, without a very clear and immediately profitable mechanism for getting authors paid.

My suspicion is that this was tossed out there by Amazon as a trial balloon, to see what the immediate reaction would be. My reaction: Yeah, thanks, but no. I see how it’s good for Amazon, and for its Prime customers (of which, I note, I am one). I don’t at all see how it’s good for me, my publishers, or the publishing industry.