In case you were wondering what it looks like. It’s certainly moodier than some other cover versions.
In case you were wondering what it looks like. It’s certainly moodier than some other cover versions.
Yesterday, writer and actor and awesome person Amber Benson tweeted wistfully:
I miss mix tapes.—
Amber Benson (@amber_benson) October 25, 2012
to which I responded:
John Scalzi (@scalzi) October 25, 2012
to which she responded:
@scalzi Uhm, like....YEAH!! Tots would like love one!! *kicks the ground with toe like awkward teenage self*—
Amber Benson (@amber_benson) October 25, 2012
THIS IS THAT PLAYLIST.
Click here for it on Spotify (if you have Spotify)
Click here for it on Rhapsody (if you have Rhapsody)
Click here for it on YouTube (dude, if you don’t have YouTube, you’re on the wrong internets)
John Scalzi (@scalzi) October 25, 2012
A couple of weeks ago I posited for group consideration the hypothesis that Obama threw the first debate in order to keep GOP contributor money flowing to the presidential race rather than fleeing to congressional and senatorial races, where the money could conceivably alter the composition of Congress for the next two years, under the idea that he could make up any lost ground in the second two debate. I asked for the thoughts from the readers on this idea, after taking care to point out that simply positing this idea did not mean I necessarily thought it was really happening, I was just asking if people thought it was plausible.
Now that the debates are done, I’ll offer my thoughts on the scenario:
No, it doesn’t strike me as plausible. I think Obama just screwed up badly with the first debate. I think he may have gone in with the plan to be cool and not to appear too aggressive with respect to Romney, but if that was the plan he badly undershot. What the reasons for this screw-up might have been I couldn’t say, because, strangely enough, Barack Obama doesn’t call me nightly to discuss the events of his day. But it’s pretty clear to me that whatever his plan was going into the debate, it didn’t survive the first encounter with the enemy. Romney was pumped up and he, at least, recognized (or thought, anyway) that this was a do-or-die event for him.
So he did, and he didn’t die, and the election cycles went his way very significantly until Joe Biden stepped in to help liberals stop freaking out. Then Obama, who was now awake, at least, did better in the second debate and (by all standards but the most delusional on the right) won the third debate by a significant margin. However, it’s probably safe to say that none of the other debates have had the same impact on the election narrative as the first and at the end of the day Obama was simply foolish to (depending on your opinion of his kung fu mastery) either let the first debate get away from him, or not to have a good defensive plan to counter Romney, who was generally considered to be the better debater and who had excellent reasons to make the first debate the major part of his late election strategy.
Shorter version: Obama got sloppy and got served, and has no one to blame for it but himself.
The irony is that if Obama does end up winning, I suspect that the result of his screwing up mightily will look like the scenario I posited, to wit, donors who were ready to write off Romney took a look at his performance and kept more of their money in his race rather than reassigning it to the house and senate races, which, in the case of the senate, at least, could have made a different between a bare Democratic majority (which seems to me the more likely outcome at this point) and a bare Republican majority (which now seems less likely). Obama did have margin to burn, and intentionally or not, he burned it, and as a result may have burned up GOP control of both houses.
Mind you, the smarter way for Obama to have done that would have been to bury Romney in the first debate and then let his coattails grow to encompass a possible Democratic majority in both chambers. But again, this assumes that Obama has a 3D Chess Rope-A-Dope Kung Fu Debate Strategy to win this election. I think reasonably highly of Obama, but at this point I don’t think he’s doing the Vulcan thing with this election. I think at this point he’s just trying to grind the damn thing out.
So, having now been a part of the first (but almost certainly not last) Humble eBook Bundle, I’ve had some folks curious about my thoughts on it, particularly as it relates to money. Here are my observations on the matter, and how those observations might relate more generally to authors. What follows relates specifically to the Humble eBook Bundle; I don’t know if my observations would be more widely applicable to any other possible eBook bundles.
First: I’ll probably make a lot of money on the Bundle, but possibly less than you might expect (and less per unit than I otherwise would). People are naturally interested in how much money I and other authors will make from the Bundle. Well, for the first week at least my default cut was 7.9% of money coming in (my default cut was in there independent of the fact that my book has considered a bonus book for people who paid more than the average). I didn’t check after the first week when the Web comic books were added but I suspect my default cut went down a bit, probably to something like 5%. Let’s say for the sake of easy math that when all is said an done my default amount of the bundle was something like 6.5%. That would mean that my default gross cut of the Bundle would be something on the order of $78,000.
Now, here’s why I won’t get that much in net. One, while the Humble Bundle had default percentages, people could change those defaults and probably did. I assume that if they did change the defaults, they were not in my favor (I am assuming they would be in the favor of the non-profits, which would have been just fine with me). So the likelihood I’ll get that that total $78k seems small to me. Additionally, Old Man’s War is published by Tor, which has the rights for electronic versions of the book, and which will take its (totally fair) cut of the proceeds.
When all is said and done, if I end up with $20,000 (before taxes) then I figure I will have done well.
And to be clear, $20k would be a nice sum of money. I would not look askance at it. I will take it. Don’t cry for me, really. But that $20k will be a substantial discount, per unit, to what I usually make for the book electronically. The Humble eBook Bundle sold 84,219 copies, which is great; my book along with Neil Gaiman’s and Dave McKean’s was offered as a bonus book for people who paid more than the average price, so for the sake of simplicity (i.e., math people, don’t bug me with mean vs. median), let’s say OMW was in 42,110 of those bundles. For electronic books, I make 25% of the net to the publisher, and Old Man’s War currently sells as an eBook at $7.99. Unless I’m doing my math incorrectly, my cut is about $1.40 per eBook for OMW (no, $1.40 is not 25% of $7.99; remember, I’m working off of net). If those 42,110 copies were sold straight up, I would gross $58,000.
So, basically, if I gross what I expect to gross from the Humble Bundle, I’ll be taking a roughly two thirds cut in my income per unit than what I usually do.
(Again: This is all back of the envelope math, unencumbered by actual verified numbers and sums. This is just me speculating on what seems reasonable to expect, given what I know.)
Does this mean I’ve gotten ripped off by participating in the Humble Bundle? Of course not. One, I don’t usually sell 42k copies of Old Man’s War in two weeks, so I’m having volume compensate for per unit sales, and it doesn’t seem to have had a negative impact on OMW’s weekly sales in any event (i.e., it’s additive, not subtractive). Two, Old Man’s War is the first book in a series, and many of the people getting OMW in their bundles haven’t read it before. If they read it and like it, the additional books in the series are going to get bought and I get full freight on those, and otherwise it raises my profile as a writer.
Three, I knew going in how Humble Bundle does things so none of this was a surprise. I signed on knowing that, theoretically, everyone could slide my slider over to “$0.00″ and I would ge nothing. Four, I did it mostly to help funnel money to the non-profits who would benefit (including SFWA), so anything I eventually get I figure is a nice bonus. For three and four, OMW is already well into the black and is the book of mine best designed to generate attention and interest, so it made that book an ideal candidate to be included in the Humble Bundle.
What does all this mean for authors participating in future Humble eBook Bundles?
1. Authors participating should know they are likely to get less per unit than they would in retail. That may be compensated for by a large number of sales (there are no guarantees, remember), but at the end of the day it’s still a fact to consider.
2. They should be understand that given the variable nature of the sliders, that they could get substantially less than what the “default” amount would be (they could also get substantially more, but that seems unlikely to me).
3. They should probably come in with a desire to have their book help the designated charities/non-profits, not to get a hot tub full of cash for themselves.
4. In the end, it’s probably best to consider the participation to be low-margin (but also low risk) advertisement for one’s name as an author and for one’s other works.
5. If possible, select a work of yours whose presence will benefit you and the Bundle best.
I was delighted to participate in the Humble eBook Bundle, and especially delighted to help drive so much money to the non-profits who were designated recipients. I would do it again. But I do want to be sure other authors thinking of participating know what they’re getting into if they are asked to participate.
(For more general thoughts on the Humble eBook Bundle, see this entry.)
The sale period for the Humble eBook Bundle has concluded, and in the course of the two week period it was available it sold over 84,000 copies and grossed $1.2 million dollars, both of which are nice, big numbers. And, if everyone stuck to the default settings (which they all didn’t, but go with me), the bundle raised something on the order of $120,000 each for Child’s Play, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and SFWA, and that’s not chicken feed, either. Unless each of these recipients decides to buy chicken feed with it, and I don’t know why they would, as feeding chickens really isn’t part of any of the mission of any of those groups. Speaking as President of SFWA, I can guarantee that no part of any money my organization might receive from the Humble eBook Bundle will go toward the feeding of chickens. That’s a promise you can count on.
More seriously, a fair number of people have speculated on what the success of the Humble eBook Bundle means for the future of publishing. As both a participant and an observer, I think it could mean something, but before we speculate on what that something means we should look at the elements that made the bundle a success in the first place, and then ask whether those elements can be replicated (and replicated frequently).
So, in my opinion, here are the things that made the Humble eBook Bundle work.
1. The Humble Bundle brand name. The Humble eBook Bundle was not Humble Bundle’s first trip to the rodeo; the organization has done several of these bundling events, primarily with games but also with music. Over the course of its several bundles, it’s developed a reputation for high-quality bundles, low-irritation fulfillment, and for being a desirable group for creators to participate with and for consumers to invest in. In other words, Humble Bundle has developed both credibility and trust in its communities.
This means that when Humble Bundle did its eBook bundle, it already had community buy in, which made it easier for the group to spread the word about the bundle among those most likely to pick it up. Humble Bundle’s primary audience has been gamers, but the overlap between those who game and those who read science fiction and fantasy (the eBook bundle’s primary thrust) is, anecdotally at least, significant, so transferring the goodwill generated by HB’s gaming bundles to this eBook bundle was not difficult to do.
2. A well-curated eBook bundle. First, as noted, it made sense to have the bundle focus on science fiction and fantasy, because of Humble Bundle’s area of success (bundling games to gamers) suggests — to me at least — that focusing on geek-centered genres would be the best path to a popular bundle. Second, the addition at the one week point of the Web comics-oriented book from Penny Arcade, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal and xkcd added an additional area of overlap with both gamers and science fiction/fantasy readers.
Third, the bundle featured an intelligent mix of authors — popular and/or critically well-regarded and spread out across the range of the SF/F genre for a broad appeal to a large number of both established readers of the genre and for those who were dipping their toe into the genre for the first time or after a long absence from the form. The books in the bundle were also well-curated, with books new and old, bestsellers and rarities, novels and collections, cult classics and emerging hits. Something for everyone, basically, and again, the addition of the Web comic books only added positively to the mix.
The books were well-curated for a different reason as well, in that several of the authors — most notably me, Cory Doctorow and Neil Gaiman, have significant online footprints, both in our own right and in our ability to have a knock-on effect, i.e., to get other people to talk about the things we talk about, online and off. Then add the Penny Arcade folks, who have their own media empire, and Randall Munroe, who has gotten linkability down to a science, and you’ve got the makings of a bundle that will get a lot of attention not only because of the quality of the material, but the ability of those in it to make a conversation about it.
3. It was DRM-free. Leaving aside the technical/commercial/rhetorical arguments for and against DRM for now, there is a significant group of people — which I strongly suspect is highly correlated with the sort who would have an interest in the Humble Bundles generally — for whom the presence of any DRM is a deal-killer and conversely, the lack of DRM is in itself a selling point, independent of the actual contents of the bundle.
4. The charitable angle. Again, an anecdotal observation, but one founded on my own experience drawing attention to work I’m involved in: people seem to be more willing to engage in something offered online if there’s a charitable hook to it. The idea there being that you’re not only getting a good deal but you’re also doing some good, for people who are helping others and/or are fighting the fight for you.
5. Relative Uniqueness. The Humble eBook Bundle was the first high-profile attempt, with high-profile creators participating, at doing an ebook bundle. That in itself made the bundle attention-worthy (or at least, attention-attractive).
6. The ‘Pay What You Want’ and ‘Time Limited’ aspect. The fact one could get the whole thing for a penny, if one chose to go that route, brought some folks to the door. After that it was up to the people participating to set the average price, which unlocked extra books. Humble Bundle also does a very good job at engineering the bundle’s dynamics to encourage people to pay more than the bare minimum. There was also the fact that if you didn’t get it within the two week window, it was gone, which both motivated people and gave the bundle a frame to work in, especially when it came to generating conversation — “Will the ebook bundle crack $1 million in sales before it closes up? Tune in tomorrow!”
So, those are the things that have made this ebook bundle a success.
Can this success be replicated? Well, I think in the future Humble Bundle has a reasonably good chance of replicating it, as they’ve pioneered the formula, have the good will of the community and otherwise are well-positioned to make it work again, even as the relative uniqueness aspect fades. Other folks trying to hook into this formula have to find a way to compensate for the advantages HB brings to the table, which it has cultivated over time. I think other organizations will find it more difficult to replicate this particular formula for success, in part because they don’t have what HB has at this point: the name brand and the track record, which give it an ability to attract top-line talent and to generate attention that moves large number of bundles.
Now, this one particular formula isn’t the only possible formula for ebook bundling success, but inasmuch as I think all of the factors in the formula contributed to its success, I wonder how much fiddling with the formula will increase the difficulty for success. Could a major publisher create an attractive eBook bundle without, say, incorporating a charitable aspect, keeping DRM and establishing a lower bound price of more than a penny? Sure, and I would be very interested to see how it would play out; my own opinion is that it would probably not work as well. Likewise, a charitable organization which created a bundle which did everything the Humble eBook Bundle did, but which did not have authors who were well-known or had significant online footprints might also find its bundle facing a steep path to success.
It’s not to say other organizations shouldn’t try and experiment and see how these things work. I encourage the publishing industry to try lots of different things and to see how they work, so long as that experimentation is not done by the coercion of authors, and that the authors are adequately compensated for their participation. It’s more to the point to say that they should be aware that, like so many successes that seem out of the blue and/or accidental, the success of the Humble eBook Bundle wasn’t out of the blue or accidental at all. Expecting the same sort of success without considering all that went into that success is not at all likely to get you the results you want.
I have some thoughts for authors thinking of participating in a bundle like this to consider, but I’m going to put those in a separate entry.
Stay tuned (Update: It’s up now.)
In the comment thread of one of today’s earlier posts, I was asked what it’s like to be living in Ohio right now, i.e., in the thick of election season, when many people seem to be of the opinion that Ohio is likely to be a state (if not the state) that helps decide the 2012 election. I can’t speak for the entire state, but I can tell you a little bit of my experience of it.
First, note that I live in a very conservative, rural county. Darke County went 68% for McCain in 2008 and 68% for Bush in 2004, and I would be deeply surprised if it did not go at least 68% for Romney this year. In my little town of Bradford there are all sorts of signs for Republican candidates and only one or two for the Democratic candidates. There’s not even a Democrat running in my US Representative district of OH-8, which is Speaker of the House John Boehner’s territory, mostly because I think they asked themselves, why bother?
Basically, I’m used to the idea that I vote in the minority when it comes to my neighbors. They haven’t run me out of town on a rail yet, however, mostly because a) that would be rude, and b) most of my neighbors are good people who just don’t vote the same direction I do. It happens, you know?
So my day-to-day Ohio experience of the election tilts heavily towards Romney, just as it tilted heavily toward McCain in 2008 and Bush in 2004. If Ohio were Darke county, Romney could already be taking field trips to the Oval Office to take measurements for the drapes.
However, Ohio isn’t Darke County. There are 88 counties in Ohio; in 2008 Obama won 22 of them, but those 22 counties also had Dayton, Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo and Akron in them, i.e., the heavily populated and industrialized counties. In this sense Ohio is a microcosm of the US in general, in which the rural areas, the largest by geography, are more conservative, and the urban areas, more compact but with substantially larger populations, are more liberal. Here in Ohio, it’s a pretty even split, and we have 18 electoral votes, which is why, of course, we’re being pandered to, or badgered, depending on your point of view.
Ohio’s media is being swamped by political ads of all sorts, but I personally am avoiding most of them. I don’t watch a lot of local or network television, so I don’t get carpetbombed in that way. Likewise, most of my car radio listening is satellite, which is blessedly free of commercials. I get mailings, but they don’t make it into the house; they all get deposited in the recycling bin in the garage, unread. Ironically, I’ve seen the most political ads through YouTube, which reads my ISP and serves me political ads that way; I hit the mute button and flip over to another tab until they’re done. I’m not a low-information voter, so all the political ads strike me as offensively simple. I don’t waste my time with any of them.
My phone rings a couple of times a day with robocalls, and you can tell they’re robocalls by the fact that there’s a brief delay before there’s anyone speaking; we hang up before they start speaking. I’ve been asked to poll several times and have given responses a couple of times; as I have a landline but otherwise profile as a cell phone user I suspect my answers skew the polling a tiny bit.
We had a bit of political nonsense regarding voting earlier in the election season when our Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, attempted to game the early voting procedures to disenfranchise Democratic voters and then was shocked, shocked when the Obama campaign and others called him on it. The courts eventually squashed the maneuver, as they should have, and we were reminded again that one of the least attractive aspects of the modern-day GOP is its willingness to attempt to win elections by keeping people from voting, rather than giving people a reason to vote for them.
As Ohio will likely continue to be central to the election hopes of both parties over the next two weeks, I don’t expect things to get any less noisy and aggravating around here. But on the other hand, as a believer in the voting experience and the idea that every vote does actually count — as part of the civic life of every American citizen if not strictly in the pedantic numerical sense of one’s vote being the deciding one in an election — I think it’s good to be living in a state where there’s the belief that we will be truly a factor in the future of our nation.
My belief is that in the end it will be fairly close, and that it probably is going to come down to the folks like the auto workers, who are probably pretty culturally conservative, but on the other hand got their jobs saved by Obama while Romney wrote an op-ed
suggesting that letting the automakers die was not a bad idea against the bailout (edit: I mischaracterized Romney’s position; my bad). I have my suspicions on how that’s going shake out in the voting booth, but I, like everyone else, will have to wait until election day to be sure.
That’s Ohio at the moment.
As a preamble, for everyone who still believes that writing is a romantic sort of life, this is what I looked like at the end of writing The Human Division:
This is what the tail end of a book two weeks late looks like. Unshaven, unkempt, tired and otherwise gaaaaah. I have since cleaned up my act:
However, I think you can still see the tired in my eyes, there. It will go away after two or three days of intensive sleeping.
The before and after pictures out of the way, let me tell you a little bit about writing The Human Division.
1. First, I think it’s a good book, and that, of course, is the most important thing. People have been on me for a while to go back into the Old Man’s War universe and tell some new stories in it, but one thing I’ve always been clear about is that I have no desire to go back in if all I’m going to be doing is grinding out books for the money. I like that universe too much, and I get bored too easily, to attempt that sort of thing. If I was going to go back, it was because I had new things to say, not because I was short on cash.
Writing The Human Division appealed to me not only because I finally figured out (to a certain approximation) where to go next in the Old Man’s War universe, but also because I would be telling that new tale in an entirely different way: Instead of a straight-up novel, I would be telling it in an episodic fashion, with each episode its own story, but all the stories bending into an overall plot arc. In other words, it’s a very different way of approaching the novel form. That was a challenge I could get into and sign on for, because I knew I wouldn’t be bored as a writer, and because then I had some freedom to explore the state of the Old Man’s War universe in ways a conventional novel would make difficult.
Having that room to explore meant I got to do a lot of cool things. There’s lots of action, plenty of drama, some humor and a fantastic set of characters, not all of whom of are human, and most of all I get to tell some great stories. With The Human Division I think I’ve gotten to see more of my own universe, and create a context for the things that go on there. I’m very happy with the experience, the writing, the stories and how it call comes together, both as multiple tales and as a single, coherent book. I’m proud of it and think you’ll really enjoy it.
2. That said, this is hands down the most difficult book I’ve written, because it’s different and because it came at a hectic time in my life. Let me revisit again with you the goals that we had for The Human Division: It needed to work as a series of independent but interconnected stories, all of which could be read on their own but which when combined together would have the scope and coherence of a novel. While doing that, it needed to revisit one of the most popular science fiction universes of the last decade in a way that made fans of that universe happy to come back, while at the same time pushing the universe forward in a way that made sense and allowed for possible and logical further expansion.
So, yeah: No pressure there.
And again, those challenges were why I did it: I like being challenged when I write because it makes it fun to write. And I need to have fun. But I was also juggling a lot of balls in the air, had a lot of puzzle pieces to put together, was hacking through totally unexplored jungle while the drop bears were falling from the trees, chose your preferred metaphor here. It was a lot to deal with, and I’m not going to lie to you guys, there were at least a couple of times where I wondered what the hell I had gotten myself into.
Added to this was the fact that this was a very busy year for me, which did funny things to my writing schedule. Some of this was expected — I’m still president of SFWA, and I also had a full schedule of appearances — but some of it wasn’t. The very happy success of Redshirts, for example, ended up meaning that much of my summer was involved promoting the hell out of that book. Which I was happy to do and would do again, but which meant that I was also shrinking the number of days I had available to write a book that had a certain deadline, because it had to be ready for December. The fact it’s now the last full week of October should give you some indication of how close I ended up cutting it. This is where I thank my editor, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, for his almost infinite patience with me.
For all that, I don’t think all that disruption was bad. One of the results of it was that I was able to spend some serious time thinking about the stories and the world building I was doing, and connections formed that I might not have otherwise made that I think are critical for the success of the book. So in the end I think I wrote it the way it needed to be written. It was a difficult birth, but a beautiful baby.
3. Yes, yes, you say. All that is fine. But tell us about the book, you moron. All right. In no particular order:
* The book is arranged into thirteen “episodes,” which is the name we’re giving to the single-serving, self-contained (but interrelated) stories.
* It’s arranged that way because starting in December, we’re selling each episode electronically, one a week, for, you guessed it, thirteen weeks. All the electronic episodes will be DRM-free, in keeping with Tor’s company-wide DRM policy. Also, Tor has the worldwide English rights to The Human Division, so the episodes should be available across the entire planet, same day and date as North American release. Or to put it another way, if you can’t buy it in your country, it’s not because of us.
* It will also be available as a stand-alone hardcover book in May, 2013.
* And yes, there will be an audio version, from Audible. My understanding is that they will also be doing the book in episodes, concurrent to the electronic episode release schedule.
* The book is 130,000 words long (minus afterword and various front matter), which means that the episodes average 10,000 words each, which is pretty much exactly as we had intended. In reality the episodes range in length from 6,000 words to 22,000 words. If you want to get technical about it, The Human Division has within it two novellas, five novelettes and six short stories. That’s because each of the episodes is written to be the right length for its story, rather than written to a specific length. And that’s because that’s how I think it should be done. All the episodes will be sold for the same price.
* The episodic electronic version and the single-volume print version will be more or less the same price when all is said and done. At least that’s the plan at the moment.
* The events in The Human Division take place after the events of The Last Colony and Zoe’s Tale.
* The Human Division features some characters who have appeared in the Old Man’s War universe before, but also features a raft of brand new characters (before anyone asks, John Perry, Jane Sagan and Zoe Boutin-Perry are not players in the book. The Old Man’s War universe is bigger than just those three characters). Most episodes feature a recurring set of characters, but there are exceptions.
* And yes, I have a vague outline of what a sequel to The Human Division would look like. But, one, I have other things to get to first, and two, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, shall we.
4. For process fans, the first words of The Human Division (which eventually found themselves incorporated into Episode Three) were written on January 11, 2012, at 2:37pm. The final words were written on October 23, 2012, at 12:02am. Most of the words were written in September and October; there were a fair number of words written before then but a lot of that got chucked.
The Human Division was primarily written in Google Docs, which lent itself to the episodic nature of the book, but parts of it were written in Pages, TextEdit, Microsoft Word and WordPress. The book was started on my now sadly-stolen MacBook Air and finished on my Mac Mini, and in between was written on my Acer One, my iPad and on a computer at the public library in Troy, Ohio that I used while I was waiting for my dog to get groomed.
The book, as previously mentioned, is 130k long, which means it’s the longest fiction book of mine, beating out The Android’s Dream, which, as memory serves, was about 114K long. As a point of comparison, Redshirts, the most recent novel, was 55k long (the codas, however, brought up to 80k length). The average length of the Old Man’s War novels is about 95k, so this one is a little long for the series. Unless you consider it as two novellas, five novelettes and six short stories, in which case, uh, who knows.
I’ll also note that, process-wise, this book was written entirely differently than any other fiction book I’ve written. I tend to write sequentially, from beginning to end. This time, however, I bounced around in sequence quite a lot, because from a construction point of view it was the smartest thing to do. It was interesting and gave me a new perspective on putting stories together, both individually and in a group. Well worth the experience.
5. And now you say, yes, Scalzi, you finished The Human Division. But that was eleven whole hours ago. What’s next? Well, I’ll tell you, you ungrateful bastards. First, I’m pretty much giving myself the rest of the week off, because I can. Then the rest of the year I’m mostly focused on the video game I’m working on. In January, I compile The Mallet of Loving Correction, the next Whatever collection, which is scheduled to be released September 13, 2013 (i.e., the 15th anniversary of Whatever). Then after that… oh, who knows. Lots of things I am thinking about. I’ll do a few of them. But right now I’m keeping the options open.
And that’s where I am, the morning after The Human Division.
At least, how it looks from my front yard, this morning. October is my favorite month for many reasons, but one big reason is the contrasts of colors you get in it.
It was completed at 12:02 am, Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012. Two weeks late, unfortunately, but still done for all that.
The “word count” function in Microsoft Word tells me it is exactly 130,000 words long. I think that’s kind of cool (and also makes it the longest fiction book I have written, by about 16,000 words). I will soon ruin that nice round number by adding dedications and an afterword. Even so. It’s now officially done, and I am happy to see it full and complete.
I’ll have more to say later today, but for now? Bed time, man. I am going to sleep well.
For those of you who enjoy printed matter, there’s a long interview of me in the latest edition of Ghettoblaster, which hits newsstands this week. In it, I talk about Redshirts and whatever (both the blog, and, you know, things in general). Also, in the magazine, apparently we are alerted to the renewed existence of Dinosaur Jr., which will warm the cockles of you early 90s folks. I think I had one of their albums on cassette! So that’s two reasons to pick up the magazine. Get to it.
The weekend went well, with about 14,000 words total for Saturday and Sunday. I’m hoping for about another 6,000 or so today and then The Human Division will be done.
For those who are wondering, no, this is not atypical for me. My writing speed tends to ratchet up the closer I get to being done, on account that nearly everything but the typing — the plotting, the characterization, the story beats — is done, and all I really have to do is get the words down without tripping over myself. If anything I have to be careful not to go too fast, otherwise I’ll have a copy editor want to kill me for having to correct all my errors.
I’ll talk about this more later (i.e., when I’m done with the thing), but I’m really very happy with the way The Human Division is turning out. Structurally it’s really unlike anything I’ve done before, and different from most things out there, and the stories I’m telling, if I may say so, are turning out to be fun to write (and hopefully to experience). It’s been a hugely interesting process so far.
Back to it for me; talk to you all later.
There’s a lot of crowd noise, so be ready for that, but otherwise it’s a good interview. I discuss Redshirts, electronic publishing, and the community right here at Whatever.
The Human Division is (oh God please) only days away from completion, which means pretty much everything else except for basic sanitation is taking a back seat to getting the thing done. As a result, please to see the stage of chaos currently existing in my office. The only reason it’s not worse than this is that book deadline or no, Krissy would snap my neck. She has standards, even if I do not.
And before someone notes it, yeah, I blew past my official deadline (which was 11 days ago). I had hoped to get a significant amount of writing done last week while I traveled, but for various reasons that did work as well as I hoped (I got some writing done, but other circumstances — some good, some less good — conspired against doing a lot). One of the nice things about this book is that it is episodic, however, so presumably my editors can work on the parts that are in while I’m trying to finish up.
Speaking of which: Later, peoples. Tragically, books do not write themselves.
This is the sort of thing that is cool about Reddit.
And yes, these were happening at the same time. It was just a matter of turning 180 degrees.
It doesn’t suck to live here.
Here’s Athena with the certificate she got for acing the Ohio Achievement Assessment test this year. I’m delighted to see my kid upholding the Scalzi family tradition of blowing the doors off standardized tests. Remember, kids — Standardized tests: Easy. Comedy: Hard.
Getting in a couple of points before I ignore you all for the rest of the day to write fiction:
* One of the side effects of writing about the Gawker/Reddit kerfuffle, and subsequently having Gawker pick up the piece, is that now people seem to think I am Team Gawker, which if they are on Team Reddit means I am a bad man.
To which my response is: Seriously? There are actually teams now? Do we divide on the field of battle, in t-shirts with the Reddit android on one side and the Gawker “G” on the other, and huff and puff our doughy, chair-bound bodies to the center of the field, therein to engage in face-turned hand-slappery? Because that seems tiring. And silly.
For the record, I am neither Team Gawker nor Team Reddit. I am Team Scalzi. Team Scalzi, or this member of it, actually visits both Reddit and Gawker on a daily basis, because he likes to wander the Web and be distracted by its shiny objects, and Lord knows both Gawker and Reddit are full of shiny, linky objects. He also believes that neither Gawker or Reddit are full-time paragons of either virtue or of vice, and that in both cases their owners (Nick Denton and Advance Publications, respectively) are perfectly happy to grub about if there are coins to be found in the dirt. It’s a living.
This is not to say that maybe Gawker and Reddit, as organizations, don’t have an antagonistic relationship going on. Maybe they do. But if they do, as I work for neither nor feel an intense association with either, I don’t know how that ends up being my problem.
Now, in this particular case, Reddit’s (rightly) on the defensive, because this Brutsch character is manifestly a creep and Reddit as an organization profited from its association, and that association throws into sharp relief some of Reddit’s less savory corners, characters and practices. This fact undoubtedly makes some folks who strongly identify as being “redditors” a little defensive and pissy, and of course that’s totally understandable. It doesn’t mean that those of us commenting on the event, and pointing out what we think it means for Reddit, are automatically the enemy. Even if our pieces are reprinted on Gawker.
In short, there may or may not be a slap fight between Team Gawker and Team Reddit, but it’s not my slapfight. If you invite me to it, I’ll decline the invitation. I’ll watch, however.
* This may lead to the question of, if I’m not on Team Gawker, why did I let them reprint the entry? In short, because they asked. If someone from Reddit had asked, I’d've been likely to let them reprint it, too. Seems relevant to both parties. That said, because of what Reddit is, it seems more likely the site would link out anyway rather than ask to reprint.
As it happens the piece has been linked to on Reddit, although I’m not seeing a whole lot of follow-on traffic; most of what traffic it’s getting is coming from the “ShitRedditSays” subreddit, which is (in a grand example of Redditors policing themselves) dedicated to highlighting the particularly asshatted things that are said on that site itself. This may mean something, or it may not. I would understand if the mass of Redditors who regularly upvote things decided they wanted to leave this particular entry alone. It’s been a rough week for them.
I’ll note that Gawker sites reprint stuff from Whatever from time to time; Jezebel reprinted the guest post I had on transvaginal ultrasounds earlier in the year, and Kotaku did the same for my “Straight White Male” piece and its follow-up. Again, it’s because they ask and because I thought in those cases it would be useful to get those pieces in front of more readers (and also, because I’m not entirely the selfless type, to give them a secondary boost after their reader numbers peaked on Whatever).
That said, lots of sites and publications reprint my stuff from time to time and the act off allowing a reprint doesn’t bind me to them. I am no more in the tank for Gawker than I am, say, for CNN, which reprinted my piece on Klout last year, or for any of the several dozens of sites and publications which have reprinted “Being Poor” over the years.
This doesn’t mean I shouldn’t practice discrimination; if someone from Stormfront wanted (unfathomably) to reprint something of mine on its forum, as an example, I’d pass. But Gawker’s sites, generally speaking, get over that particular bar. I’m sure they’re relieved to know that.
* One of the things that has been suggested by some of those affronted by the piece is that I must be one of those people who thinks free speech is okay, so long as only nice people use it. Well, no. If you don’t give even the scumbags a right to free speech, etc. But again, this isn’t about free speech, it’s about what speech Reddit, a private company, decides it wants to tolerate on its site, and, separately but not less importantly, why it chooses to tolerate that speech.
I understand many Redditors want to believe Reddit has a high tolerance for the creepy because it has high-minded moral and ethical principles on the matter of tolerating even the most controversial types of speech, and, well. I think that’s adorable of them to believe so. I am less convinced, personally, as I have noted, although I certainly understand why Reddit would choose to invest itself in the cloak of high-minded principles of unfettered speech than jangle unabashedly down the street wearing only the jockstrap of unfettered commerce. But again, just because Reddit finds it convenient doesn’t mean I’m required to sign onto it, nor should anyone else.
* Likewise, I’m personally not enjoined to believe that every creep who enjoys whacking off to pictures of women who didn’t consent to have their pictures used in that fashion actually gives a squirt in a bucket about free speech, in any other sense other than a dread fear that someone will make it more difficult for him to find all his masturbatory fodder in one convenient, semi-respectable location. It’s like the dudes burbling their way through a bowl of weed who talk about the medicinal properties of marijuana and how awesome hemp is when all they really want is to not worry about their own supply.
Yes, some mouth-breathing upskirt enthusiasts actually are ardent defenders of free speech in a constitutional context, just as some couch-surfing stoners are actually deeply committed to stumping for recognition of cannabinoid compounds as legitimate instruments of medical therapy. Speaking as someone who is both for free speech and for the disprohibitionmentation of marijuana, however, I will suggest their actual number, as a ratio against those dudes who just want their whack and weed, is low indeed.
Which is why, upskirt dude, when you come at me with your “free speech” argument, I am skeptical, shall we say, concerning your sincerity regarding, knowledge of, and commitment to, free speech. I will judge you if it quickly becomes apparent — as it so often does — that you haven’t the slightest idea what you’re talking about on the subject. Because then not only are you a creep, you’re an insincere creep, and you think I am as ignorant as you are, which is also unsurprisingly offensive to me.
If all you want to do is be a creep, then please don’t drag free speech into it. Free speech really does deserve better.
* Finally, no, “disprohibitionmentation” is not a real word. But I really think it should be, don’t you?
The folks over at Gawker have reprinted my “Gawker, Reddit, Free Speech and Such” piece on their site, with my permission, obviously. Things should get interesting now.
Whoever posts the first comment in this thread will have the official 300,000th comment on Whatever.