Monthly Archives: October 2011

And Here Comes the Standard Post-Trip Disclaimer

Which is:

As I’ve been traveling for more than a week and didn’t pay attention to anything while I was away, including e-mail, Facebook, Google+, news or, well, anything, it will probably take me a couple of days to get fully up to speed. Patience. In particular regarding e-mail, if you sent me an e-mail and wanted a response but don’t have one by 5pm Eastern on the 26th, feel free to send it again.

 

Final Thoughts on the Germany Trip

First: Dude, this town hall in Tübingen is both awesome and about 250 years older than my country. I still have a hard time wrapping my brain around that.

Second: Now that I am back home, a few more notes to wrap up my whole German tour experience.

1. Before anything else of note, I would like to take a couple of moments to give a sincere public appreciation to Carolin, my handler in Germany, who accompanied me while I traveled the country and made sure I was fed, sheltered and going where I was supposed to go on any particular day. I wasn’t entirely sure until a couple of weeks before the tour if I would have a handler at all, a fact which filled me with mild apprehension. To be blunt about it, I fairly certain my first act in Germany would be to get very very lost, take a train and end up in Romania or some such and then spend the rest of my life begging coins to get back the US. Thanks to Carolin, I avoided that fate entirely. And as a bonus, she was very good company, and tolerated ten days of near constant contact with me far better than most normal human beings would (seriously, most of you would have stabbed me in the back around day four. Trust me). So thank you, Carolin, my friend, for the company, for the help, and for not pushing me in front of a train at any point in time, when, considering how many trains we took while in Germany, would have been very easy to do indeed.

2. Likewise, thanks to every member of the US consulate service and every German-America Institute staff member who made such a fantastic effort on my behalf, and who made me feel welcome at every point during my stay. Miriam Jaster, who was the point person for bringing me over, I will single out for special thanks, but everyone was just tremendously nice and helpful, and my not naming every single person is more an artifact of the fact that right now my brain is like pudding than it is that they are not deserving of a name check. I hope you will all forgive me. Additionally, many thanks to the people at Random House Germany and Heyne for tagging in for the tour, particularly (aside from Carolin) my German editor Sascha Mamczek, who did a fine job moderating me in both Frankfurt and München, and with whom I had a number of good conversations about writing, about the business of publishing, and everything else. Lasers and spaceships to you all.

3. Also, you know. Germany. As I’ve noted before, I’ve been wanting to visit it for a long time (I even tried to be an exchange student in high school), so being able to go over, and do a book tour, at the behest of the United States government, even, was pretty much a dream come true. And Germany did not disappoint at any point — the people were fantastic, the country gorgeous (even when rainy) and no one pointed and laughed when I mangled the language; indeed, I was given credit for even trying. It’s definitely true that Germany is a fairly easy country for English speakers to travel through; English is as I understand it a required subject and almost everyone seems to have enough of it to understand you, and you them, if everyone makes an effort. But I did try to talk in German when I could, because, hey, it’s their country, might as well try. But when I failed, they allowed me to fail gracefully, which I appreciate.

I left Germany feeling even more positive about it than when I came in, and I was pretty excited when I came in. I will definitely be back at some point, book tour or not, because I would love to be able to show off the country to Athena and Krissy. Likewise, allow me to heartily recommend going to Germany for the rest of you. You won’t regret it.

4. And now, for no particular good reason, a picture of me eating an “Amerikaner,” a type of pastry:

Yes, yes. “Ich bin eine Amerikaner,” and all that. As I noted on Twitter whilst I was consuming the thing, it’s amusing that the Germans have a pastry called “the American” and we don’t, much like, I imagine, Danes are surprised that we have something called a “Danish.” The Amerikaner, incidentally, is basically an large, bland, overinflated sugar cookie, which I must reluctantly concede is all-too-accurate as a metaphor for us as people, even though I was assured that, honestly, it wasn’t a comment on us at all. Sure it’s not. But it went down fine.

The Amerikaner was actually the most “American” thing I ate over in Germany, since I felt that if I was going to go that far across the globe, I might as well eat the local food, and not mewl like a smack junkie everytime I passed a McDonalds or Burger King, both of which were plentiful (as were Starbucks and Subways). So I ate a ton of heavy German food, and then promptly walked it off, because people over there walk a lot. There was some stuff which was enjoyable to try once but I won’t need to go back to again — blutwurst, I am looking at you — by and large I ate well, and was happy that I was not a vegetarian.

And yes, they had Coke Zero there. Yes, I drank it. Yes, it was good. Some things are constant, people.

5. On a similar note, a lot of the German folks I met who worked for the Consulate or for the German-American Institute had been exchange students to the US, and apparently they thing they all love the most about the country is Taco Bell. Seriously, their eyes would just light up when they talked about it. I was concerned about this at first — “Now, you know it’s not actually real Mexican food, right?” is what I asked them all — but they all understood that Taco Bell is to authentic Mexican food what a handful of Skittles is to a basket of fresh fruit. They just liked it anyway. And, well. As an ardent fan of the seven layer burrito, I can’t say I find this indefensible. So, note to self: The next time I’m in Germany, bring a stack of Taco Bell delights. I will be greeted with flowers.

6. You’ll all be amused to note that in addition to my role as science fiction author and American Writer on Display, nearly every day I was called up on to be Speaker to the Germans, answering questions about the United States, and particularly the state of our political system. Because, as you may imagine, Germans along with everyone else on the planet is mildly concerned about what looks like the general state of insanity over here. I was honest with them and told them that The Crazy was only going to get worse through the 2012 election, so they might as well get used to it. They weren’t especially happy about that, but then think of how I feel about it. They don’t have to live in the middle of it; I do. They were not notably sympathetic, which I suppose is fair enough.

And now I’m home and glad to be here, seeing my family and pets, all of whom seem happy to see me. Germany was wonderful and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. But it’s also good to be back. For lunch, I think I’ll have Taco Bell.

Checking In

Hello, world. I am in America now. And hanging about in Philadelphia’s terminal F for the next few hours. I have a wall socket and a wifi hotspot. I am reasonably content. I had given some thought to calling up friends and leaving the airport for a bit, but having had to run the TSA gauntlet upon arrival, my thought about going through security again here is hell no. Sorry, Philadelphia.

So, America: Anything interesting happen while I was away? I’m guessing not. But maybe you can tell me.

Going Home

I sure hope they’ve glued the wings onto the plane by the time I get to the airport!

Note to Germany: Thanks. You were wonderful.

Note to United States: I am coming. Pick the place up before I get there. I’ll notice if you made a mess while I’m away.

And here we go.

Tribble’s Tribbles

This is Conrad Tribble, the US Consul General in Munich, and yes, those are tribbles that he is holding and/or wearing, proving that he has a good sense of humor about his name. Consul General Tribble and his wife Christina were gracious enough to hold a brunch today in my honor, which was attended by science fiction fans, academics, journalists and also some folks in the film world here in Germany. It was interesting group of folks, and by request, I also did a reading from Redshirts — a different chapter than I read the night before since there were a couple of the same people there. Later on I also played the ukelele, as Consul General Tribble just happened to have one in the house. It’s not every day you get to play the ukelele for one of the top American diplomats in Germany, especially one who is himself a musician. I don’t think I embarrassed myself too much.

In any event, a terrific time with terrific people. And now I’m back at my hotel, out of the suit I wore to the brunch, and about to walk out into Munich to do a little sight seeing. I leave the country tomorrow, back to home. As noted before it’ll be sad to go, but I’ll be happy to see my wife and child.

Tomorrow is a long day of travel (A nine hour flight to the US, a ridiculously long layover in Philly, and then a late flight home); depending on events, I may not update at all tomorrow. In which case I’ll catch up with you all on Monday.

Update: 11:15pm (Germany): The Munich Consulate has updated its page with pictures from the brunch and last night’s event.

München Says Hello

And they look happy to see you!

Folks, the München event was fantastic. Another great reading in German from another great actor (whose name, I believe, is Alexander Meiler, although I may have messed up the last name, so if anyone who was there can correct me, please let me know), a fine crowd, more excellent moderation from Sascha Mamczak, my German editor, who at the end the event also announced that Heyne, my publisher in Germany, would be buying Redshirts, so how awesome is that. And then dinner, where I ate Blutwurst because no one at the table seemed to think I would actually do it. Well, I did. So take that, sparkly vampires.

I know I sound like a broken record at this point, but wow, Germany is just plain awesome. I love this place. I’ll be sad to leave on Sunday. Happy to be going home, to be sure. But sad to leave.

Now off to collapse. See you all tomorrow.

 

In München

München, of course, being what the Germans call Munich, and when in Germany, etc.

It occurs to me that during my entire trip here in Germany I have not done one of my customary “view from the hotel window” pictures, so let me rectify that right now, lest I incurr the Wrath of the Internets at a time when I am least able to point and laugh at the Internets for being all wrathified. The view is of the back of some building, but as building backs go, it’s really not that bad. My hotel room is charming, and in roughly an hour I pile myself into a taxi to visit my German publisher’s offices, where I’ll meet the fine folks who put my books out into the German bookstores, and then it’s off to the Amerika Haus, where I have my last public appearance. And then, yes, we’re going to a Hofbrauhaus. Because when in Bavaria, etc.

Your plans for the day? Share with the crowd.

Freiburg Recap

I mentioned last night, just before I collapsed into sleep, that if writers can do an event at a planetarium that they should really try it. The reason I suggest it, and particularly for science fiction writers, is that there’s something primal about telling stories while the stars turn overhead — it’s very much a return to the original days of storytelling, when making stuff up and sharing it with people helped pass long nights. Also, look: You get a planetarium of your own for a whole night. How cool is that. Yes, I really am a nerd. This should not be a surprise at this late date.

And as you might imagine, I thought Freiburg was pretty wonderful. The event went very well, and once again there was a fantastic reading in German, this time by Peter Haug-Lamersdorf, who I recommend for all your reading needs, should you ever be in Freiburg, and who knows? Perhaps you might. Last night was also special because my friend and fellow writer Ben Rosenbaum came up from Switzerland, where he now lives, and he and I wandered the city, talking, laughing our asses off and generally alarming the populace by talking at a rate of speed that’s probably not entirely human. It was fun. Fun, I tell you.

Today: Off to München and to my final public event, tonight at 7:30 at the Amerika Haus. The event admission is free — free! Free! — so if you’re in or near München, why not come? It’ll be the last you see of me, Germany. So if you want to see me at all, then is the time. See you there.

Now in Freiburg

Where they have quite the cathedral, as it happens. Begun in 1200! And they’re still doing construction (which you cannot see but which is top of frame). Perhaps it’s no so much that they’re still doing construction as it is they’re doing a little reconstruction. But still. Nothing is perfect in God’s eye, apparently.

This is where I’m doing my reading tonight and as noted on Twitter, tonight’s reading is special because it’s taking place in a planetarium; the idea is that I and the German actor reading the translated piece will be performing under the stars for whoever decides to show up. I think this is neat and I’ll be interested to see how it works. If you’re in or near Freiburg, come to the Planetarium; we start at eight. Here’s the cool poster they made that tells you everything!

Meet Boris

One of the cool things about being an American author touring Germany is that at every stop, they have a German actor perform a bit from the German translation of your work. For example, this fellow, Boris Rosenberger, who read for me in Stuttgart and in Tübingen. He did a fantastic job (as did the actress in Saarbrücken, whose first name is Julia but whose last name escapes me at the moment, alas), and I have to say that it’s actually been a lot of fun watching someone else read the work and hearing how they choose to perform the piece. It’s definitely better than I could do, of course, my German being what it is, but it’s also different than what I would do, even if I could do it in German. The actor doesn’t have the same relationship to the work and chooses different ways to hit the notes, so to speak. It makes for a very fun and interesting experience. I recommend everyone try it at least one.

Also, Hollywood casting types, look at this man. He’s hot, people. Make him a star, why don’t you.

E-Mail Down Briefly

Note to folks: my primary e-mail, john@scalzi.com, will be down briefly (less than an hour), while I fix the problem that’s been bouncing mails. Also, please note that while my account has been bouncing mail, I have been also receiving your mail; this is because I have the mails forwarded to a secondary address. It’s all very complicated, but it means I haven’t missed any mail that was sent (although, since I am away from home, I’m not responding to most mail anyway. Hey, I just said it was complicated).

So, if you could avoid sending me e-mail for the next hour or so, that would be great. If you can’t avoid it, well, then don’t expect me to actually see it. Thanks.

Update 4:29pm Germany time: Should be fixed now. E-mail away! Of course, I’ll still be mostly ignoring e-mails until I get back to the US. But don’t let that stop you.

Me in a Suit and Tie

The Facebook page of the US Consulate General in Frankfurt is currently featuring pictures of me at my Frankfurt event. The page is here, and the direct link to the photo set is here. (The photo of me and the American ambassador to Germany? Here you go.) And yes, as advertised, there are pictures of me in a suit and a tie. You know you want to go look right now.

Another View of Tübingen

This is the old part of town, which has parts the date back to, like, 1400 or something. If you’re an American, your experience with buildings that look like this comes out of animated Disney films, which means that when you see them in real life you have a hard time grasping that they are authentic, and possibly older than your country. And the bottom floors of these buildings are filled with cell phone shops and hair salons, which feels incongruous, but isn’t, because after all, humans actually live in these places, and they live in the 21st century.

Yeah, you can tell I don’t get out of the US much, and when I do, I go to places like Canada and Australia, where, as nation-states, they have the same thing going that America does, i.e., not a whole lot of free-standing structures more than a couple hundred years old on the outside. I remember going to Boston and thinking, wow, there’s a lot of old stuff here. Brother, I’m an idiot.

In Tubingen

Which is in fact rather prettier than this gray picture would lead you to believe — it’s a bit rainy here at the moment. My hotel is quite pleasant, although my streak of hotels with lousy Internet continues; this one promises wireless access in every room, for values of “every room” that mean “the lobby.” But at least it’s reasonably quick in the lobby. The hotel is also just across the street from where the event is this evening, so that makes it very easy to get about. I’ll probably go for a walk a bit later to see some of the old town. Because, you know. When am I going to be in Tubingen again? Exactly.

And remember, if you do happen to be in or around Tubingen, I’ll be having my event this evening. Please come. Otherwise I’ll have traveled thousands of miles and six times zones to be in a room all by myself. Which would be sad.

Science Fiction Film Writing Prompts

This week over at my FilmCritic.com column, I thought I’d switch things up and have you try some writing — so I have thought up of twelve writing prompts, based on science fiction films, for you to consider and maybe write up on your own blogs, Facebook/Google+ profiles, Twitter feeds, or the comments on the column itself. And yes, one of them involves a flamethrower, so the picture above actually makes sense. Check it out and happy writing!

Stuttgart, Tuesday

Guten tag, alles. I am now in Stuttgart, which for those of you with an automotive bent, is the home town of Mercedes Benz. It’s a very industrious city from what I can see.

Yesterday, I was in Saarbrücken and had my second event of the trip. It was the first one at which I had an actor reading one my German texts, so I was nervous about how that might go. I shouldn’t have worried; the actor, a woman named Julia, did a fantastic reading of the text. If each of the other actors do as well, each of these events is going to be tremendous.

My only problem with Saarbrücken is that I had no Internet connection of any real sort; my hotel appeared to blank out my mobile hotspot, and the hotel’s idea of connectivity was a USB stick with 30MB of bandwith, which equal to about ten e-mails and a couple of Twitter updates. Madness, I tell you. Madness! Here in Stuttgart the hotel has Internet, but they throttle it to 56kbps, which was slow a dozen years ago. Oh, Germany. Why do you hate the Internet? The Internet only wants to love you. And show you cat videos. Lots of cat videos. With cats!

Anyway. I’m loving Germany, except for its Internet. How are you?

My First Tour Appearance and Already I’m Clearly Punchy

“I can’t read this book! It’s like it’s written in another language or something!”

The book, incidentally, is upside down for a reason, which is that I had commented that I read German so poorly that it would probably sound better if I turned the book upside down. And it did. I’m sorry, Germany, for slaughtering your language with my tongue.

This picture was taken at yesterday’s reading. The fellow on the stage with me is my German editor Sascha Mamczak, who introduced me and asked me questions and gave away copies of my books to a lucky audience member. The photo is by Judith Wallerius, who was (obviously) in attendance and nice enough to send it along to me so I could show it to you.

Tomorrow: Saarbrücken. See you there. Unless, I suppose you don’t live in or near Saarbrücken. But if you do, well. You should come. See here for details.