John Scalzi Did Not Co-Write The Forever War

A lot of folks use Twitter to track the books they are currently reading, which is nice because it lets me and other authors obsessively track when people are reading something we wrote. One of the books my name is associated with, however, is The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman. The reason for this is if you look at the Amazon listing for the Kindle edition, you’ll see that I’m listed as having written the introduction. Unfortunately, in what I assume are auto-generated tweets about books being read, that reduces to “The Forever War by Joe Haldeman and John Scalzi.”

This really really really bugs me. One, quite obviously, I did not co-write The Forever War; among other things, it was originally published when I was five. I like to think of myself as having been a precocious writer at an early age, but this would be a little ridiculous. Two, I dislike the impression, auto-generated or otherwise, that I was somehow involved in the production of Joe’s master work. I was delighted to be invited to write the introduction to the latest print edition, which in turn was used for the Kindle edition, but I don’t believe that this in any way warrants a co-ranking status with Joe in the listings at Amazon, or in Tweets and other reports about the book. Three, while I don’t think anyone versed in science fiction literature would actually believe I co-wrote The Forever War, people unfamiliar with the genre might see the reference and assume it’s correct. Small errors of fact continue to crop up (this is why I am often correcting people who assert Old Man’s War won a Hugo). It’s best to nip them in the bud.

Note that I don’t assume people tweeting about The Forever War actually think I co-wrote the novel; as I said I suspect the Tweets are auto-generated and then people add their own comments to them. But just so it’s on the record, with me saying it: I, John Scalzi, did not co-write The Forever War. It’s Joe Haldeman’s novel entirely.

And it is fantastic. You should read it. And credit it correctly when you talk, write or tweet about it. Thanks.

60 thoughts on “John Scalzi Did Not Co-Write The Forever War

  1. Yeah, I’m an avid Kindle reader and the tweets are an option on the last page. Content is auto-generated. I’m of two minds. It’s fun to have the info out there, but it’s a big old ad for the Kindle, as opposed to the book. I dunno.

    Also, Mr. Scalzi, I got this when trying to sign up for a WordPress account to post this comment.

    “This webpage is not available
    The webpage at https://whatever.scalzi.com/signup/ might be temporarily down or it may have moved permanently to a new web address.
    Error 501 (net::ERR_INSECURE_RESPONSE): Unknown error.”

  2. I’d never read it, and this post made me finally decide to go get it…here’s the listing on the search page when you put in “forever war” on amazon:

    “The Forever War by Joe Haldeman and John Scalzi (Kindle Edition – Jul 6, 2011) – Kindle eBook ”

    –Are you SURE you didn’t write it?

  3. I’ve had a similar problem with an intro I wrote for a French edition of Heinlein’s _Sixth Column_.
    Funny thing is that, while I’ve written many laudative articles about RAH’s works, this was one of the very few times where I happened to be more reluctant, admitting that _Sixth Column_ was maybe his poorest novel…

  4. John I know you had nothing to do with the writing of THE FOREVER WAR. I read this novel in 1981 or 1982. It along with HAMMER SLAMMERS turn me to military SCI-FI. I have always read SF/F, but this was my turning point.

  5. Please, please, please get together with Joe and co-author an introduction/foreward for a new edition of Heinlein’s Starship Troopers.

    Besides, we all know Starship Troopers, Forever War and Old Man’s War are the same novel re-written for different eras. Elvis would be bonkers by now if he wasn’t doing something other than sitting around talking to JFK, Hitler and Morrison….

  6. This is why I don’t write Forewords. Amazon has had this problem for ten years… and I don’t want credit for being a co-author when I’m not.

  7. It’s kind of the reverse of those Chuck Norris (or Bruce Schneier) facts.

    John Scalzi Did Not Co-Write The Forever War.

    John Scalzi Did Not Give Frank Herbert The Idea For Spice.

    John Scalzi Did Not Terrify Thousands With His Realistic1938 Mercury Radio Theater Adaptation Of “Moby-Dick”.

  8. Ah, auto-generated metadata. This is what people in the library profession have looked forward to for years so they could get rid of those lazy, expensive catalogers. Ain’t it wonderful?

  9. I sympathize. Years ago, Amazon.com started listing me, Terry Hickman, as a co-author with Margaret Weis (and sometimes also Tracy Hickman) of any number of their novels. I tried everything I could (as a very low-level small press and ezine-story-selling writer) to get them to fix it; I even CALLED them, and the guy brought one of the books up on his computer and said, “Yep, that’s wrong, and we’ll fix it” – but they didn’t, for years. I even dug up Tracy Hickman’s email address and wrote an email THERE, and he said “Good luck, I’ve never had any luck getting Amazon.com to correct anything.” This blog post sent me over there to check, and apparently, somehow, they finally figured it out.

  10. Yeah, over at LibraryThing Amazon is rather known for generating a fair amount of bad data. Author mix-ups, wonky ISBNs, incorrect covers, you name it. But they are fairly good about correcting errors that are pointed out to them. So if someone were to alert them to this, they would in all likelihood fix it.

  11. John Scalzi Did Not Terrify Thousands With His Realistic1938 Mercury Radio Theater Adaptation Of “Moby-Dick”.

    Okay, wait, THAT one is true.

  12. steve davidson at 8:30 am:
    Besides, we all know Starship Troopers, Forever War and Old Man’s War are the same novel re-written for different eras.

    Years ago I saw someone say that the way to understand military culture was to sit down and read three books all at one sitting:

    Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein and John Scalzi,

    The Forever War by Joe Haldeman and John Scalzi,

    and Bill The Galactic Hero by Harry Harrison, John Scalzi, and a colony of hyper-intelligent mutant squid.

  13. John,

    do you have any insight or comments on the upcoming theatrical depiction of the Forever War. Details I have ambiguous and sparse.

    Also, did you try to write the Heinlein intro in German? As I believe you recently discovered, Germans love it when you try to speak their language. Seriously. (The French on the other hand would prefer you just not try).

  14. Mmmm…One of the first military SF I ever read as well in the early eighties. I think “The Forever War” is also the first SF book I read where gays were treated as people. (My home town library didnt have much of a selection). Just read his Marsbound and Starbound books this weekend and hes still going strong.

  15. Hey, what a coincidence. I didn’t write “The Forever War” either! Woohoo, something I’ve got in common with John Scalzi.

  16. Amazon search hit #2 is for “The Forever War” by Dexter Filkins (a likely pseudonym for collaborations between John Scalzi and the colony of squid, but without Harry Harrison).

    It’s about the lengthy U.S. campaigns in Iraq & Afghanistan.

    I realize that books sharing titles isn’t all that rare, but I guess I find it a little sad that the publisher of this work either was unaware of the 1974 Haldeman novel or didn’t consider the possibility of confusion to be a reason to select a different title, or perhaps they were aware of the novel and were inspired to choose that title.

  17. I’m not sure we can even blame Amazon on this one (although the Kindleness of this case makes it more probable).
    When we sold children’s books, we’d get a regular database shipment from Ingram (one of the largest book distributors, and also manages fulfillment for Amazon) that includes everything they stock and stocked (in print and not). It has multiple author/contributor fields and would list people multiple times (if they were author and illustrator, for instance), intro writers, and without much of a way to indicate what type of contributor they were. Like many databases, it’s full of alarming numbers of errors too — a large part of our catalog assembly process was weeding out their errors.

    I strongly suspect that this database is responsible for what’s alleged to be a 10-year Amazon record of over-generosity in credit.

  18. I wonder if getting your publisher and/or the publisher of The Forever War involved to give Amazon a little smack upside the head … er, tap with the Loving Mallet of Correction would get them to fix the automated tweet’s text for this particular book. They might have a little more clout than John Scalzi, listed co-author :)

  19. John, as you were writing War And Peace, did you ever consider the title “War, What is it Good For?”

  20. Um, wow. Didn’t expect to tweet about finishing a book and then have that tweet show up in my rss reader the next morning.

    Upon completion of The Forever War on my kindle, it prompted me to share that I’d finished the book on twitter (I’d previously connected the my kindle account to twitter). As I know friends looking for sci-fi book recommendations, I figured they’d appreciate it.

    The Kindle presented me with a text box auto-filled with the following:
    “finished The Forever War by Joe Haldeman and John Scalzi. #Kindle”

    I added the insightful comment “SO GOOD”, then hit share. After I looked at it on another twitter client a few minutes later, I noticed it implied that you co-wrote the book and not just the introduction, but I’d already had some replies to it, so I didn’t want to delete the original tweet.

    The only reason I even heard about The Forever War in the first place is because someone introduced my to “Agent to the Stars” in April, since which I’ve read that book, “Android’s Dream”, “Old Man’s War”, “Ghost Brigades”, “The Last Colony”, and “Zoe’s Tale”. Looking for more books you’d written, I searched for your name in the Kindle store and “The Forever War” popped up, I believe I was able to read your introduction as part of the free sample, and as a result I bought it and enjoyed it quite a lot. And as a result of the incorrect tweet I posted (though not because of it’s inaccuracy), within 15 minutes one friend bought Forever War on his kindle, and I lent my copy to another friend via kindle’s lending functionality. So amazon’s mis-labeling has gotten at least 3 more people to read “The Forever War”, which can’t be all bad.

  21. Captain Button November 1, 2011 at 11:27 am says:
    “Years ago I saw someone say that the way to understand military culture was to sit down and read three books all at one sitting:

    Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein and John Scalzi,

    The Forever War by Joe Haldeman and John Scalzi,

    and Bill The Galactic Hero by Harry Harrison, John Scalzi, and a colony of hyper-intelligent mutant squid.”

    I think my experience would qualify as a suitable substitute:
    Brought up by two parents who met in the US Marines (but they were discharged before I was) and

    I have read The Forever War by Joe Haldeman (before John Scalzi co-wrote it).

  22. “Amazon search hit #2 is for “The Forever War” by Dexter Filkins”

    Mike, IIRC Filkins has read the Haldeman book and picked the title for his own book about Iraq and Afghanistan as a deliberate reference.

  23. Lets be honest; John had to take some unwarranted crap from SF hipsters who objected to the Piper reboot. The last thing he needs is people thinking he’s claiming credit for some other classic. I’d bet my bottom dollar that some indignant minor SF blogger will come up with a nasty post blaming John for his name being on other people’s works.

    Actually, I’m not certain I know what a bottom dollar is, so I might not have one available to bet if pressed on the issue.

  24. This is getting to be like those jokes about Phil Collins in the 80′s (“What band is Phil Collins in?” “He’s in every band!”)

    “Which books did John Scalzi co-write?” “All of them!”

  25. Hey, I wrote an introduction for the UK edition of Forever War, and Amazon never mentioned me. Is John Scalzi now taking out other authors who write cover blurbs?
    Peter F. Hamilton

  26. Steve Davidson:

    I’ll (respectfully) disagree with your statement that Starship Troopers, The Forever War, and Old Man’s War are the same novel for different eras. In my considered opinion they are, respectively, thesis, antithesis, and synthesis on the topic of state sponsored, collective, outwardly directed violence.

  27. John Scalzi wrote half of Athena Scalzi’s DNA.

    BY HAND.

    I shall now have to scrub this image out of my brain with bleach. Thank you.

  28. BY HAND.

    That’s an unusual way of doing it.

    Having worked in a bookshop and a library, the only thing worse than getting a book with crudded-up metadata is trying to find a book when the metadata is crudded up. Simple things like “what else did this guy write” turn into “surely, one of these hundreds of books must have been written by him”. Worse when the punter can’t exactly recall the name of the author, or remember anything other than “the cover was red” (something I do a lot. Penguin classics are the worst for this). So, Mr Scalsea, or Shuzli or Skuzzi or whatever your name really is, can you please change your name to something short, memorable, and easy to spell?

  29. @adelheid_p: the third book, after Starship Troopers and Forever War, should be John Steakley’s “Armor”.

    If you’ve never read this book before, a word of warning: about halfway through, there’s a pretty jarring perspective shift. Roll with it. It’ll all make sense later.

  30. Wait, you mean you aren’t THE John Scalzi who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, Bonfire of the Vanities, The Worm Ourobouros, The Time Machine and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes? So what did you write then? :)

    According to Amazon, I apparently wrote 2 books on Quality Management (though I just got an e-mail to say they are correcting this).

    I think we should all try to get a Twitter trend set up where we use #andJohnScalzi to claim other titles he has co-authored :)

  31. It should be mandatory by law to add a warning, whenever mentioning The Forever War, that you shouldn’t read it without having someone nearby who can hug you – because you’re going to need it. It is a wonderful book and I’ve enjoyed reading it, but it should have a warning label saying “Reading this book will cause you to need a hug. Badly”.

  32. Ah, this is like when anthologies are listed on Amazon with all the contributors as co-authors–and no mention at all of the editor. Gotta love technology.

  33. Eric Picholle writes:
    I’ve had a similar problem with an intro I wrote for a French edition of Heinlein’s _Sixth Column_.
    Funny thing is that, while I’ve written many laudative articles about RAH’s works, this was one of the very few times where I happened to be more reluctant, admitting that _Sixth Column_ was maybe his poorest novel.

    But, Eric, it may be your best novel!

  34. Nikitta: Try reading some Harlan Ellison (if you’re not boycotting him for his IRL behavior). His collection Deathbird Stories has a warning to the effect of “don’t read too many of these at once”, and that warning is warranted.

  35. Dave, I would say that in general Ellison is the sort of thing to keep on hand in case of overdosing on anti-depressants. Definitely anti-manic.

    But then, there are any number of writers with the same trait (Aldiss! Martin!) whose IRL behavior is less reprehensible than Ellison’s. Probably better to read the Helliconia trilogy if you really have a deep need to be depressed.

This is the place where you leave the things you think

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s