Monthly Archives: November 2012

Enjoying Them While They Last

As I noted on Twitter, I don’t actually expect that Twinkies will disappear if Hostess’ parent company actually goes through with its threat to liquidate — Twinkies and other assorted Hostess products have too valuable a brand name for that — but on the other hand, why not buy a couple of the sponge cakes just in case. I also picked up a couple packages of raspberry Zingers, which, truth to tell, are my favorite creme-filled snack cake, although I liked them better when they were from Dolly Madison. How times change.

Girl With Surgical Boot

Please to enjoy Krissy’s latest fashion accessory: A surgical boot. She’s not merely wearing it as an affectation, however; she did in fact have foot surgery this morning. She’s fine (as you may note from her bemused expression), we’re fine, everything’s fine, and for the next few of days at least I will be waiting on her hand and foot, pun fully intended, because doctor’s orders are for her to take it easy and not move around a whole lot. If I’m scarce around here, you’ll know why.

Today is Redshirts Publication Day in the UK

For all my British friends who were wondering when it was they might be able to get their hands on the actual, verified, made-in-the-UK version of Redshirts: Today is that day! Rush this very instant to your favorite bookstore and demand it. Politely, please. Don’t, like, upend a front table as soon as you arrive to the store and bellow “DAMN YOUR EYES WHERE IS REDSHIRTS?!?” to the now appalled and terrified retail staff. They’re just trying to get along with their day, man. They don’t need that sort of scene. You can also get it online: Here’s the Amazon UK link; here it is at Waterstone’s.

The astute and/or fanatical among you may note that Redshirts is being published in the UK by Gollancz, which is to say, yes, I have a new publisher in the UK. I’m delighted to be working with them, and hopefully this will be the start of a beautiful relationship. Much will depend on the sales figures. But I believe in you, UK! Hey, did you know that the holidays are coming up? That’s what they tell me. It may just be a rumor. But if the rumors are true, Redshirts would be a fine gift for yourself, the ones you love, and also just random people. Seriously, buy the book, walk up to some person you don’t know, thrust the book at them and say “All the answers are in here. You’ll know them when you see them. I can’t say any more. They are watching me,” and then just walk off, cryptically. Studies I have just made up in my head show it’s the best way to get random people to read a book.

On second thought, just stick with the people you know. Probably for the best that way.

In any event, UK, I do hope you enjoy Redshirts. I had fun writing it; I think you’ll have fun reading it.

(P.S. Check out the latest SFX Magazine; it’s got a thumbs-up review of the book which declares that the book “doesn’t boldly go up its own arse.” That’s a blurb for the paperback for sure!)

(P.P.S: And here’s a new review at Sci-Fi Bulletin, which says “Think of a combination of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead and Galaxy Questand you’ve got the flavour of John Scalzi’s latest novel Redshirts – but it’s much more than that.”)

Two Strangely Relevant Links

One: This very interesting piece in Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology, called “Queer Female of Color: The Highest Difficulty Setting There Is? Gaming Rhetoric as Gender Capital,” which discusses in some detail my “Straight White Male” piece from earlier in the year, and the fact that it got some traction — and why that might have been. Well worth reading.

Two: Writer Joe Peacock’s “Rethinking My Stance On ‘Fake Geek Girls’”. Mr. Peacock, you might remember, wrote a piece for CNN on “fake geek girls” which prompted my response here. In the time since he’s had he’s been thinking about his stance some more and now appears to want to do some serious thinking about it, and is asking for input from others on the matter. You could be one of those folks! Follow that link at the top of the graph to do so.

To encourage people to discuss these topics elsewhere, I’ll turn the comments off on this entry here.

Today is a Good Day to Subscribe to Clarkesworld Magazine

Many Whatever readers are fans of science fiction and fantasy, which means they have probably heard of Clarkesworld Magazine, the Hugo-winning science fiction magazine, which has published some genuinely excellent fiction in its run. Clarkesworld is owned and operated by Neil Clarke, who I can vouch for from personal knowledge as being one of the nicer folks in the genre. Neil has unfortunately has had a stretch of hard road recently, including a heart attack and (very recently) being let go from his day job. He’s keeping as optimistic an attitude about these things as he can, but optimism will only go so far.

Clarkesworld is an excellent magazine, and it’s also a story market that pays more than the SFWA minimum for professional-level sales, meaning that it’s a good market for writers, too. You can read its content for free on the Web site, but there’s also an option for you to subscribe to the magazine as well, and have it delivered to your e-reader, or to donate to the site to support it.

What I would like you to consider today is supporting Clarkesworld, either through a subscription (here’s the subscription page) or through a donation (here’s the donation page). I think it’s a good investment, not only for your reading enjoyment, but also for making sure writers get paid decently for the work they do. Those are both things I enthusiastically support. And, as a bonus, your subscription or donation now will help put the magazine on solid footing for the future. And that’s something I enthusiastically support as well.

Give it some thought, and thanks.

When Gut-Boys Attack

It turns out that the author of the above screed, comic book artist Tony Harris, was born the same year I was.

I can’t actually conceive of a forty three year old man, particularly one who has presumably functioned reasonably well in the real world, with other actual human beings, writing a paragraph like that one up there.

There has to be an alternate explanation for it.

Perhaps, and I’m just spit-balling here, all these years Mr. Harris has kept, Kuato-like, a maladept fifteen-year-old boy in his gut. Then one day, when Harris sat down at a keyboard to exclaim how much he liked kittens, that gut-boy seized control of his body to have a vent. Perhaps Harris went into a trance when it happened, and by the time he came to, gut-boy had already posted his screed to Facebook. At that point, Harris had no other choice but to stand by it, because to do otherwise would raise too many questions, mostly about the adolescent man-child that lives in Harris’ intestine. I mean, how do you explain that away? How did gut-boy get there? Is this his first eruption? At conventions, when Women of Insufficient Nerdity walk by Harris’ booth in their unearned cosplay, does gut-boy strain at Harris’ abdominal wall, trying to get out, screaming “UNCLEAN” loud enough that Harris has to cover up gut-boy’s muffled howling with a carefully-staged coughing fit? Does Harris exist in a state of existential despair, never really knowing when gut-boy will unfold, like a scrotal origami, to rail at the feminine injustices of this world? And at boobies?

I fear he must. I fear Tony Harris truly has a gut-boy, lodged well into his duodenum. Rationally, it is the only explanation. Indeed, it’s the only explanation for a depressing number of grown men in nerd circles: They suffer from a plague of gut-boys, lashing out while their hosts can only look on, horrified and embarrassed at the misogynistic words and statements they will soon be obliged to own.

In which case, I will pray for Tony Harris in his life-long struggle against his angry, wailing gut-boy. It’s a difficult life he leads. I can only hope one day, he can expel his splenetic parasite and live a freer, fuller life. In the meantime, he should consider staying away from keyboards. You never know when gut-boy will strike again.

A Couple of Quick and Final Post-Election Notes to Liberals and/or Obama Supporters

As I did offer some notes yesterday to the some (but not all!) white males freaking out about Obama winning a second term, I figure it might be worth it to give a couple of notes to those who are thrilled about his re-election. Seems fair, etc. So:

1. It’s been a week. You can crank back the schadenfreude. Yes, it’s time. There’s only so much poking of wounded conservatives you can do before you cross the line into just being an asshole about it.

2. Don’t get cocky. Obama won by almost exactly the same popular vote margin as George Bush won in 2004. While the point is taken that in presidential elections it’s the electoral votes that count, and that getting 271 of those is just as good as getting 400 in terms of job placement, it’s worth recognizing that among the citizenry, there’s a close-to-even split on how to run this particular railroad. Which dovetails nicely with the next point:

3. The mid-terms elections are out there. And the mid-term elections a) historically tend to favor the non-incumbent presidential party, b) tend to be decided by a smaller, more-committed group of voters. Which is to say: Hey, remember the 2010 elections? Don’t think it can’t happen again. It can, and it very well may.

4. 2012′s electoral coalition isn’t automatically permanent. In the short-term? Sure, it’ll likely cohere for a couple election cycles at least. But, for example, if the GOP genuinely reaches out to Hispanics — more than the now grossly-obvious rush to embrace immigration reform — I don’t think it’s impossible that many Hispanics will find elements of the GOP platform attractive. As another example, if same-sex marriage becomes a settled issue in the US, I know enough gays whose economic point of view would make conservatism a congenial intellectual home for them (aside from, you know, the ones who are already there).

5. Don’t think the GOP is stupid. Yes, it got its ass handed to it by Obama’s high-tech/low-tech combo of exhaustive quant analysis and field operatives knocking on doors. That’s going to work once. When 2016 comes around, the GOP will have baked that into their operation, and they’ll have some new strategies to try out too. And if whoever is the 2016 Democratic candidate tries to run a 2012 campaign, he or she will get their ass handed to them, too. And in the meantime the GOP is going to do what it does, namely, finding ways to block and frustrate Obama’s and the Democrat’s legislative agenda. They’re good at it, too. They own the House of Representatives, remember?

6. Don’t think the most reactionary conservatives are actually going to “go Galt.” That’s just the reactionary conservative version of “moving to Canada.” Just as liberals didn’t rush the border in 2004, neither are these folks going to crawl into a bunker, or crevasse, or seastead or whatever. They’re going to stay where they are, they’re eventually going to calm down, and then they’re going to get back to what it is they do. This is real world, and it’s really hard to flounce out of it.

7. Don’t think you know what the future will bring. Hey, around this time 2004, did you think the dude just elected as the junior senator from Illinois would be president? Had you even heard of him? I knew of him very vaguely, mostly because he won his seat against Alan Keyes, who had been recruited when the former Republican candidate fell out because of a sex scandal. Illinois, man. When he announced his presidential candidacy in February 2007, did anyone think he was going to be anything other than a speedbump for Hilary Clinton? If you think you know how 2016 is going to play out, you may be deluding yourself.

8. Nothing’s been decided but who was elected president. I mentioned this last Wednesday, but it bears repeating. Obama’s got four more years. Everything else? We’ll see. And if you thought you were going to be able to lie back for the next four years, guess again. No one else is taking the time off. The GOP isn’t. Almost certainly Obama isn’t.

How to Get Signed and Personalized Scalzi Books for the Holidays, 2012

The holidays are coming up – as they seem to do every year — and once again I am teaming up with Jay & Mary’s Book Center, my local bookseller, to sign and personalize any books of mine that you want for your favorite gift-giving holiday of the season. It’s my way of helping you give a special gift, and helping out a local business. Everybody wins!

So: Want a signed and/or personalized Scalzi book for yourself or someone you love/like/are in some way obligated to? Here’s what you do:

1. Call Jay and Mary’s at their 800 number (800 842 1604) and let them know you’d like to order signed copies of my books. Please call rather than send e-mail; they find it easier to keep track of things that way.

2. Tell them which books you would like (For example, Redshirts), and what, if any, names you would like the book signed to. If there’s something specific you’d like written in the books let them know but for their sake and mine, please keep it short.

3. Order any other books you might think you’d like, written by other people, because hey, you’ve already called a bookstore for books, and helping local independent bookstores is a good thing. I won’t sign these, unless for some perverse reason you want me to, in which case, sure, why not.

4. Give them your mailing address and billing information, etc.

5. And that’s it! Shortly thereafter I will go to the store and sign your books for you.

If you want the book shipped for Christmas, the deadline for that is December 12. That way we can make sure everything ships to you on time. Hey, that’s a month; more than enough time for you to make your selections.

Also, this is open to US residents only. Sorry, rest of the world.

What books are available?

CURRENT HARDCOVER: Redshirts, METAtropolis. Also, there might be some copies of The God Engines left out there, but I can’t guarantee it; you can ask.

CURRENT MASS MARKET PAPERBACK: Fuzzy Nation, Old Man’s War, The Ghost Brigades, The Last Colony, Zoe’s Tale, The Android’s Dream, Agent to the Stars, The New Space Opera 2 (anthology; my story “The Tale of the Wicked” is in it).

CURRENT NON-FICTION: Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded (essay collection, Hugo winner), Book of the Dumb, Book of the Dumb 2 (both humor books), The Rough Guide to the Universe, second edition (Astronomy), The Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies (film). All my non-fiction is in Trade Paperback format.

If you have any other questions, drop them in the comment thread and I’ll try to answer them.

Happy shopping and especially thanks for supporting my local bookseller. They’re good people and I’m glad I get to work with them. And thank you!

Some Quick and Final Post-Election Notes to Some But Not All White Men

Specifically, to the white men who have spent the last week freaking out about the fact that Obama won a second term without the majority of white men voting for him.

1. First off, relax. A rainbow coalition of gays, women and minorities is not coming to your door to take your guns or your freedom. As difficult as it may be to believe, when anyone else votes, they’re usually actually not ever thinking about how their vote is going to have an impact on you, the white man. Consequently, in the aftermath of the election, they’re generally still not thinking about you. You’re just not that interesting or important to them.

2. Second, stop believing that the problem was that Romney didn’t sell the message. He sold it just fine. So did Paul Ryan. So did the GOP candidates you favor. So did hundreds of millions of dollars worth of ads funded by SuperPACs. The problem isn’t the selling of the message. The problem is the message. Everyone else got the message. They just said “thanks, no,” to it. Stop being the guy who thinks the message will work by restating it again in a slightly different, often louder, way. That says “You’re stupid enough not to notice I’m selling the same message.” This is not a good way to convince people.

3. If you’re going to “go Galt,” now really is an excellent time to do it. Please, go Galt! We want you to go Galt. It’s probably best for everyone if you do go Galt. I feel compelled to warn you, however, that as you don’t actually live in an Ayn Rand novel, your self-deportation to the Galt’s Gulch of your choice will not, in fact, collapse society into a wailing socialist pancake of misery. What will happen is that someone else in our nation of 300-some-odd million will slot into your position, albeit with probably less strident personal politics, and things will go on more or less as they did before. This is something Ayn Rand got wrong.

4. Speaking of Ayn Rand, I realize that many of you are still using her terminology and trying to blame Mitt Romney’s defeat on a coalition of “takers,” or, like Bill O’Reilly, really believe that tens of millions of your fellow citizens voted for “things” and “stuff.” I understand it makes you feel better to say “takers” rather than, say, “people who believe that the overall benefits of a pluralistic society should be less obviously tilted to the tiny minority at the very top of the income pyramid,” but be aware that a) not everyone (and by “not everyone” I mean “almost no one but you”) sees the two as synonymous, b) you’re not helping yourself by continuing to assert that they are. This is another thing Ayn Rand got wrong.

5. In fact, as a general note going forward: Ayn Rand? Got it wrong. On pretty much everything relating to humans. Yes, I know. It was hard for me to believe it too, for fifteen minutes when I was teenager. But I struggled through! And so can you.

6. While you’re at it, consider widening your diet of political thought and reportage beyond the holy trinity of Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and the Drudge Report, and their various lesser cognates. They stopped modeling reality and started just saying what they think should happen and called it “reality.” Political scientists call this “epistemic closure” but I call it “NYAH NYAH NYAH I CAN’T HEAR YOU AND DON’T WANT TO KNOW.” I’m not saying don’t listen to them; you’re going to do that anyway. But you might double check the things they say against a source that doesn’t make its money, as I’ve noted before, terrifying aging white people.

7. Finally, relax yet again. There are still tens of millions of you. Your political concerns are not going to go away. You still have a seat at the table. The politicians you favor are still going to win lots of elections, especially at mid-terms. Heck, your favorite politicians still have the House of Representatives! That’s half a branch of government right there. You’re going to be just fine. You’re just going to have to get used to the idea that you won’t always get your way. Which makes you like everyone else. I know, that’s not what you’ve been led to expect. But it is fair.

Update, 11/13: Liberals and or Obama supporters! I have notes for you too.

Redshirts in German: Out Today!

The German version of Redshirts, called Redshirts, is out today. If you’re in Germany and reading this (and several of you are, Germany is this blog’s biggest readership outside of native English-speaking countries), you can buy it off Amazon.de or, presumably any bookstore that has a reasonable science fiction section. If you would like to read a bit first, there’s an excerpt on my German publisher page (and of course off of the Amazon page as well).

I’m also delighted to see that in the first couple of hours of it being for sale, it’s already number five on Amazon.de’s science fiction list, behind three Perry Rhodan installments and a George RR Martin book (which is fantasy, but never mind that). It’s also at number eight, for the Kindle edition. It’s a nice way to start a day. It’s also got its first one-star review, which is not about the book, but some dude griping about the publisher. I hate that shit.

I’m very excited regardless. I sold the book last year when I was in Germany — my publisher there announced he was buying it at one of my events, which is one of the nicest ways to find out you’ve sold a book, I have to say — and this is the first foreign-language version of the book that’s out (it’s sold in several other languages too, at this point). It’s fun to see it on its way in the rest of the world.

The next country Redshirts is coming to: The UK! This Thursday! You know I’ll let you know about that, too.

Boycotts and Franchises

People have asked me if I plan to boycott Papa John’s Pizza and/or Applebees, because John Schnatter and Zane Tankel, CEOs of Papa John’s Pizza and the New York franchisee of Applebee’s, respectively, have rumbled about cutting hours and wages of employees in order get around coming health care requirements.

Well, as it happens, it’s been years since I’ve eaten at either. The closest Papa John’s is eleven miles away and there’s a local-owned place that makes pizza, and, you know, I try to support local-owned business and such, and Papa John’s doesn’t deliver out to me anyway. Likewise, when the Scalzi family has a hankering for comfort food from affordably-priced casual dining restaurant chains, Applebee’s isn’t usually where we go for that. So I suppose I could boycott them both, but as with Chik-fil-A, as a practical matter, boycotting them would be me just not going to them with intent. I don’t know how much of a difference that will make.

However, I think it’s worth looking closely at the details of the Schnatter and Tankel statements, and at the corporate structure of the restaurants in question. Both chains run on the franchise basis, which means that the franchisees are largely responsible for the operations of the stores and the staffing choices. When Schnatter was talking, he was saying how he could see how franchisees would cut employee hours, not (as far as I could see) that he was ordering them to do it. If I found myself in Greenville, at the Papa John’s there, I suppose I would want to know what the franchisee there (which I believe is PJ Ohio, LLC) plans to do with its employees.

Likewise, when Tankel was talking about his plans, his plans affect only those Applebee’s that he’s got the franchise for, not any other. For example, my local Applebee’s is franchised by these guys, who as an example of their own business philosophy have on their Web site a page discussing their commitment to “inclusion and diversity.” It wouldn’t be accurate or fair to boycott my local Applebee’s because of something a different franchisee not operating my local restaurant does; likewise, boycotting the entire national chain because New York’s franchisee is a dick doesn’t seem the right thing to do either.

On the flip-side of things, during the Chik-fil-A blowup earlier this year over same-sex marriage, a New Hampshire franchisee of the company co-sponsored an LGBT pride event. The question there, I suppose, is whether the on-the-ground support for LGBT causes in New Hampshire obviates the anti-equality statements of the company’s CEO. For some people, the answer will be yes. For others, not so much.

The shorter version of this is that the very nature of franchised businesses can make it difficult to figure out whether or not the corporate values of the restaurant or store on the ground near you are something you can support. And simply as a practical matter there’s also the question of how much research one can reasonably be expected to do in order to discover whether, say, the local McDonald’s or Taco Bell franchisee is a company whose politics and policies are in line with one’s own. This isn’t to say it can’t be done, or shouldn’t be done if one feels strongly on a matter. Just that — surprise– things are often not as simple as a call for action on Twitter or Facebook can make it seem.

This may especially be the case when one lives in an area whose general politics are manifestly not one’s own. I mean, look: I live in a county that just went 70% for Romney, surrounded on all sides by counties who went for Romney by similar margins. Franchise or locally owned, if I shopped only at the places where I knew the owners or companies held my personal political values right down the line, I’d be commuting an hour each time I shopped or wanted a burger. After a certain point you have to decide where your line is. There are places that don’t get my business, or will ever get it, because I find their corporate beliefs or practices problematic. But I’m not going to stop going to the local ice cream shop because the owners put a Romney sign in their window.

Veteran’s Day Once More

While Athena and Krissy were at the Korean War memorial last week, an older gentleman in a wheelchair came up to a particular spot on the memorial and looked up at a soldier who was portrayed there. It was him, sixty years ago now. The sitting fellow is that gentleman, surrounded by a group of Vietnam veterans, one of whom is pointing to the image on the wall.

A long time ago, that moment in granite was. But it’s permanently etched into our nation’s history now.

Here in the US it’s Veterans Day; in the UK, Canada and elsewhere in the Commonwealth it’s Remembrance Day. Wherever you are, take a moment to reflect on the service those in your nation’s military gave to your country, whether decades ago or today.

Look Who’s Back

Wife & daughter, after a week of them being off to DC for a field trip: Athena to learn, Krissy to be a chaperone for Athena’s class.

What’s that, you say? You didn’t even know they were gone? Well, we did have that election last week, which kept me busy. And also, you know. I don’t tell you everything here on Whatever. This should not be a shock by now.

Regardless, Saturday is Reunited Family Time. See you all later.

Meanwhile, in Darke County

In October I wrote about what it was like to live in Ohio in the midst of swing state madness, and I made the notation that Darke County, where I live, went 68% for McCain in 2008 and that I would be surprised if Romney did not do at least as well this year. Well, as you can see, Romney won 71.5% of Darke County’s vote. Likewise, Josh Mandel, the Republican candidate for Senator, reeled in over 68% of the vote; countywide, Republicans won the majority vote of the county’s voters. Whether this translates to overall success is another question entirely — both Romney and Mandel lost their races statewide — but it gives you an indication of the state of politics in my county. John Boehner, incidentally, won Darke county with over 98% of the vote, but then he didn’t have a Democratic opponent this year.

The mood here is not thrilled for the Obama/Sherrod win on the national ticket, as to be expected, but I don’t see any indication that people are hugely angry or upset; they weren’t either in 2008, either. And no one has come to burn down my house, because, of course, why would they. My neighbors are conservative, not jerks.

The Big Idea: John Schwartz

New York Times reporter John Schwartz covers the nation for his beat at the newspaper. But his latest book Oddly Normal finds him reporting from home, writing about the challenges of raising a child who chooses to come out as gay at an early age. Schwartz and his wife found themselves without a map of this particular child-raising territory and went looking guidance and inspiration. What did they find? Schwartz is here to tell you.

JOHN SCHWARTZ:

When I set out to write a book about our experiences raising a child who turned out to be gay and troubled, I looked for wisdom – the kind of ideas that could propel me through writing a book that other people might actually want to read.

I didn’t want to write a self-help book or a how-to guide, since I don’t read them and don’t see myself as an authority on anything, especially parenting. And since our youngest son tried to commit suicide, I’m not sure I necessarily present the kind of example anyone else might feel compelled to follow. Besides, the best how-to guide in the world could be summed up by its first sentence. The book is Dr. Benjamin Spock’s famous book Baby and Child Care, and the first sentence is simply this: “Trust yourself. You know more than you think.” How could I ever improve on that?

I also knew that I didn’t want to try to transmute my experiences into a novel. As a newspaper reporter, I have enough trouble getting facts right; creating whole new sets of facts seemed to almost certainly be beyond my abilities.

Besides, I was inspired by the words of a journalism buddy of mine, Tim Noah, who wrote that while he couldn’t stand self-help books, he found great comfort in memoirs. Tim wrote that he takes greater meaning, and greater comfort, from memoirs. “What I’ve come to believe is that psychological advice isn’t worth much if it isn’t rooted in personal experience,” he said. “So instead of reading self-help books I read memoirs about the kinds of experience I’m trying to cope with.”

So: a memoir. A memoir about being a parent of a child who is different. A child who was burdened by his differences, and who we tried to help to accept himself.

Like a lot of gay kids you hear about these days, Joseph attempted suicide. He was 13, it was shattering to us all. And it set me to exploring why a kid who is gay might do such a thing. The standard media storyline puts it into a form that can almost be an equation: gay teen + bullying = suicide. But when Joseph took an overdose of pills at 13, it had been some time since anyone had actively bullied him. It made me wonder if there could be something more going on, and that set me on a path to the work of Ilan Meyer, a psychologist who developed a theory of “minority stress.” In his view, a young person who is gay might be bullied, or fear bullying, sure – but he also might carry around an inner bully who kicks his ass more forcefully than any external bully in the cafeteria. Self image can be cruel, and the stress of concealing oneself can increase the pressure tremendously. The underlying problem, by Meyer’s reasoning, is the stress of being different.

It made a lot of sense. And it made me think back on a book that I love: David Gerrold’s The Martian Child: A Novel About a Single Father Adopting a Son. Science fiction fans know David Gerrold as the science fiction novelist who gave us works like “When HARLIE Was One” and the great episode of Star Trek, “The Trouble with Tribbles.” Martian Child was different: an autobiographical novel about adopting a son who had ADHD and other issues—including the boy’s insistence that he was actually from Mars.

Now this is a child who is different. And the experience of raising the boy and trying to understand him through the open-minded perspective of writing science fiction led Gerrold to a memory and a revelation: that “I was a Martian child too.” He remembered that “back when I was a kid, when I was the smallest and the smartest, when I was getting picked on every day, when I was teased for just being alive, I knew that someday the Martians would come and get me.” Once with his own kind, he had imagined, “we would never hurt again, we would never be lonely again.”

So my wife and I are raising a gay kid who is different in many ways: smart, funny, but also socially awkward and emotionally vulnerable. We wouldn’t have him any other way. And I wanted to say that all children, and especially the children who are different, need to be embraced and supported and loved.

Science fiction can save your family. Who knew?

—-

Oddly Normal: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the book’s Facebook page. Follow Schwartz on Twitter.

Post-Election Notes For the GOP (Not That They’ve Asked For Them)

Having just voted against both its presidential and Ohio senatorial candidate, I am reasonably sure the GOP doesn’t want any notes from me about its failures last night. On the other hand, I am a white, male, well-off, heterosexually-married, college educated fellow, which means according to these exit polls at least, I am the GOP “demographic” down to the last jot and tittle. Maybe it’ll listen for just that reason.

So, fellows! Some notes for you. Please note this is addressed to the party leaders, not the party members.

1. Recognize your brand is damaged. You can’t seriously be considered to be the party of fiscal probity at this point; your record for the last thirty years makes this laughable. Bush shot your international relations standing in the foot. All you have left is social issues, and — surprise! — on social issues, most people who are not you think you’re intolerant at best and racist, sexist, homophobic and bigoted at worst.

Seriously, guys: What does the GOP actually want to be the party of? At this point, and for the last few years, it’s been “The Party of Not Obama.” This is not a good way to run a railroad.

2. Deal with your base. Your base is killing you. Did you see your presidential nominee slate this year? I know your base was excited about them, but from the outside we were all, like, “seriously, WTF?” The fact that an unrepentant bigot like Rick Santorum managed to pace Mitt Romney for the nomination as far into the process as he did should have sent up enough red flags to rival Beijing on May Day. Then it makes the (relative) moderates who eventually win the nominations spend too much time tending to its issues and selecting awful vice presidential candidates. Sarah Palin terrified the non-base voters she was supposed to attract. That Paul Ryan counts as an “intellectual” in GOP circles speaks to the almost unfathomable poverty of your brain trust at the moment. That these two were brought on to bolster their respective presidential candidates with the party’s base should throw up all sorts of warning signs.

Your base is fine for now with mid-terms, when you’re dealing with house races, and districts that have been gerrymandered to allow for genuinely horrible politicians to be elected (yes, on both sides, but we’re talking about you for now). For presidential elections, when you have to deal with a national electorate? They’re a bad foundation. They’re going to keep making you fail. If you don’t want to believe it, two words for you: Akin, Mourdock. If you think they only lost their races, think again.

3. Accept the fact that the US is browner and more tolerant than you are, and that you need to become more of both of these things. By “tolerant” I mean that we’re okay with gays marrying and women deciding what to do with their own wombs and that we think science doesn’t want to shiv Jesus in the night when no one is looking. By “browner,” we mean, well, browner. Lots of Latinos and blacks and other ethnic minorities out there. More every day. And very few of them want to have anything to do with you. Both of these mean that lots of younger white people don’t want to have anything to do with you either, because — again, surprise! — many of the people who they love and grew up with in this browner and more tolerant nation are the folks you spend a lot of time railing against, in code or just straight up. And that’s bullshit.

I am a white, well-off, college-educated man married to a woman. And in my family and close circle of friends I have Hispanics, African-Americans, Asians, gay, bisexual and trans people, religious, agnostic and atheist, able-bodied and disabled. You lose me when you classify any of them as the other. They’re not the other; they’re us.

4. Stop letting your media run you. Look, guys: Fox News and Rush Limbaugh don’t actually care about the GOP. They really don’t. They are in the business of terrifying aging white people for money. To the extent that your political agenda conforms to this goal, they’re on your side. But when you step outside of their “terrify aging white people for money” agenda, they’re going to stomp on you. How many GOP politicians have had to grovel at Limbaugh’s feet because they said something he didn’t approve of? Stop it. Tell him to fuck off every once in a while. It’ll be good for you.

And while you’re at it, tell Grover Norquist to fuck off, too. The fact this dude keeps the lot of you from facing economic reality with that damned pledge of his is an embarrassment.

These are the things I would start with.

Do I expect you to consider them? Not really, no. What I expect you to do is the same thing you’ve been doing for the last twenty years, which is to decide that the problem with the GOP is that it’s not socially conservative or fiscally irresponsible enough, cull anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the new tighter and angrier level of orthodoxy and go from there. If that’s the direction you go, I wish you joy in it, and look forward to years and years of Democratic presidents.

The Schadenfreude Pie I Make This Week Will Be Dedicated to Right-Wing Pundits

Particularly the ones who shat all sorts of bricks in the direction of FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver. Nate Silver, who applied statistical modeling to the polls to see how likely it was that either Obama or Romney would win the White House, consistently had Obama as the most likely to win — in fact, he never not had Obama as the favorite for re-election. Silver’s not the only stat nerd to say this (for example, my personal favorite electoral stat nerd, Princeton’s Sam Wang, did the same thing and was even more confident of the probability of Obama’s re-election), but he’s the stat nerd whose blog is hosted by the New York Times. So as election day approached and Silver’s site continued to show confidence in the probability of an Obama victory, the right-wing pundits decided to use him as their generic piñata for everything they hated about the polls not conforming to their own hopes. Some folks even decided to “unskew” the polls to make them more palatable.

Then along came election day and the actual electoral map conformed to Nate Silver’s probability map (almost) exactly. We have to wait for Florida to officially drop into the Obama tally, but once it does, Silver’s probability map is gold. He called it true, as did Wang. This will, of course, be the cue for the right-wing pundits whose own predictions — “based on their experience” rather than rigorous statistical analysis — were wildly off base, to complain that it’s the media who skewed the results to meet its own predictions, nevermind that the pundits themselves are part of the media they are griping about, because it’s different for them, you see.

It’s not just reality that has a well-known liberal bias, guys. Now it’s math, too.

If there’s one thing that I would fervently hope for the right wing of this country in the aftermath of this election, it’s that it finally stops viewing the world from the warm, safe confines of its own ass. Or if that can’t be managed — and why should it be? There’s money to be made inside the warm, safe confines of the right wing’s own ass — that everyone else truly and definitively recognizes that much of the right-wing punditry of the country simply does not have the ability to accurately model the world as it actually is, as opposed to how they want it to be.

I understand no one likes having to face reality, when reality doesn’t give you what you want. But in the case of Silver, Wang, et al, modeling reality didn’t mean “Making guesses based on what I want to happen,” or (in the case of the now hilariously named unskewedpolls.com) “starting from a political point of view and then fiddling with things to get the desired result.” It meant “using a transparent system of statistical analysis and accurately reporting what it tells us on the probability front while simultaneously pointing out where errors can and do occur.” Strangely enough, it makes a difference.

In point of fact, neither math nor reality have a liberal bias. However, it might be accurate to say that liberals may be more comfortable with both math and reality. Or at least, they were in this election cycle.