Daily Archives: May 30, 2012

Dayton and College Graduates

The New York Times comes to visit Daytonwhose metropolitan area I am (barely) a resident, and to use it as a poster child for the sort of formerly prosperous manufacturing city that is now fighting to retain and attract college graduates who see New York, San Francisco or even Raleigh as a better place to be — because there are lots of college graduates there, for one thing. It’s a hard cycle to break, although to its credit Dayton is now trying (after years of inertia, which basically typifies the human condition, now, doesn’t it).

I’ve been reasonably happy in the area, even in a rural part of the area with even fewer college graduates, but then again I spent my 20s first in a job that nearly weekly took me to LA and San Francisco, and then suburban DC at a job at which nearly everyone around me was college educated. These days I’m settled with a family, I and travel constantly and see lots of people that way, all of which skews my perception considerably. I don’t know that I’m a good test case.

I do have a fantasy that some of the college graduates and/or creative people who flock to NYC/LA/SF/DC/etc eventually yearn for cheaper rents and yards and start looking at towns like Dayton as places to land — which may seem a tad dismissive of the creative folks in towns like Dayton, to which I say: Sorry guys. More would still be better, no? But it’s a chicken and egg thing — need cool stuff in town to attract people, but cool stuff comes with enough people. Or maybe you just need enough people becoming exasperated with paying $2,000 a month for a postage stamp apartment in a big city. Either way, I hope Dayton and other towns like it find a way to get and keep their share of college folks.

And Now My Favorite Track From the New Garbage Album

It’s “Big Bright World”:

The whole new album is pretty darn good, I have to say. I’m a Garbage fan since the first album, and there’s not really an album of theirs I don’t like. They pretty much hit all my “This is my music” triggers and always have. There’s something to be said for consistency.

In any event, the new album is called Not Your Kind of People, and I recommend it; if you like the song here, you’ll like the rest of the album too.

Some Administrivia Regarding The Site

This is one of those housekeeping posts, mostly of interest to me and the perhaps three people out of the entire audience who give a crap about the fiddly things I do to the site. Hello, fellow OCDians!

Anyway:

1. I fiddled with the sidebar slightly today, to put up a promo spot for Redshirts, give The Big Idea its own promo spot, and to delete the links to Clash of the Geeks and the November Advent Calendar. Clash of the Geeks is still accessible through the Scalzi Creative Sampler link, however (and November Advent is of course still in the archives). The “Random Whatever” feature is also still in the sidebar, just down at the bottom. I’m not sure anyone but me played with it. The Redshirts promo will be up at least through my tour dates, i.e., through the end of June. Hey, it’s my site, I can promote my latest book if I want.

2. Speaking of the book tour, the fact I am flitting around the country for much of June means things might be a little slower around here than usual and/or posts will be shorter and of the “Hey! I’m in an airport!” variety. It’s been an eventful May. I’m not sure a somewhat restful June will be a bad thing. I do have a full schedule of Big Idea pieces, so that’s good. And remember that I’m on Twitter a whole hell of a lot.

3. Going back to the site for a moment, it’s possible that later this evening (i.e., after most of all y’all have gone home) I may fiddle with the site a bit more; it appears there are features of this particular template I may have not yet fully exploited and I want to check them out to see if they are things I would find useful. So if you pop by in the evening and it looks like the site has exploded, don’t panic. Everything is under control. I SWEAR.

4. For you statistics fans out there, this month has been far and away the most trafficked month on Whatever since I switched over to WordPress VIP hosting in October ’08 and started using its stats program to track visitors (see my notation on its reliability for tracking actual visitors to Scalzi.com). In fact, if I get 17k visitors today and tomorrow, I’ll crack one million visitors for the month, tracked (which means rather more in reality).

To assure I reach this milestone, here is a picture of a cat.

There, that should do it.

The Big Idea: Mark L. Van Name

Contrary to what the Beatles once said, love is not all we need. But it’s still high up there on the list. What does this have to do with No Going Back, the latest science fiction novel by Mark Van Name? Quite a lot, actually.

MARK L. VAN NAME:

I never set out to make a particular set of points in a book. If anything, I rather studiously avoid worrying about a novel’s themes, because my proper focus is to tell a story; I could no more prevent the themes from asserting themselves than I could stop the sun from shining. Instead, over time a story grows in my mind and my notes, bits and pieces coming from here and there and everywhere, and then I tell it. Afterward, though, it’s impossible to avoid noticing the notions and concerns that gave rise to the work.

For No Going Back, the big idea sounds so clichéd that I’m almost reluctant to type it: each of us deserves love.

For many people, probably most people, this concept is a gimme, a statement as obvious as the sun’s light.

For some of us, though, it is, very sadly, almost impossible to believe. Survivors of abuse, for example, may spend much, sometimes all of their lives fighting against a deep-rooted belief that they do not deserve love, that something in them is so very wrong, so very broken, that what they deserve is what they got: the abuse of those who should have been protecting and loving them. These people can work for decades to try to learn a simple lesson that is immediately obvious to anyone not in their situation: it was not their fault. Many never succeed.

Victims of abuse are not the only people who may have trouble with even the concept that they deserve love. Joining them are many veterans and police officers and EMTs and others who have had to deal with horrible situations and sometimes do things that most others would find horrible. When you’ve committed violence, even in a good cause, even if to protect others, even if only to survive, the stain it leaves inside you can make you wonder in the dark moments before sleep and the darker dreams that follow whether you are worthy of anyone’s love.

Attacking this idea in a far-future SF adventure may seem a bit odd. Doing so in a book whose protagonists, Jon and Lobo, are a man who is the only successful human-nanomachine hybrid, and a large, incredibly intelligent machine built to kill, may seem odder still, but science fiction is nothing if not an incredibly flexible medium for exploring the human condition.

The notion may also not seem to lend itself to the structure and pace of a page-turner of a thriller, but it can, it really can. The story winds a crooked path through the rescue of kidnapped children, the protection of a pop star, a raid on the home of one of the most powerful men alive, and a confrontation in the barren outback of one of the least hospitable of the planets humanity has settled, but the emotional fuel propelling it, though sometimes invisible, is always there.

After all, in the end, few quests are more powerful than those for love.

—-

No Going Back: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

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