Daily Archives: January 3, 2013

Killing My Voice Mail

Well, I finally did what I should have done about four years ago, which is to change my cell phone voice mail message to this:

Hi, this is John Scalzi. I will never ever ever ever listen to the voice mail you’re about to leave, because voice mail is a pain in the ass. So if you actually want to reach me, you can either send me a text at this number, or send me e-mail at “john@scalzi.com.” Feel free to leave a voice message if you want, but remember, I will never ever listen to it. Have a nice day!

Why? Because fuck me, voice mail is annoying. Especially on cell phones, on which it seems designed by the furies to punish everyone, not just the people who mock the gods. And you know what? Life is too short to deal with a horrible user interface, especially when everyone under the age of 103 knows how to send a goddamned text. So that’s it, I’m done with voice mail, that hateful contrivance. And I feel good.

You Have Never Truly Heard Me Until You Have Heard Me Through Mary Robinette Kowal and Google Voice

 

Mary Robinette Kowal does a dramatic reading of three Google Voice transcripts of my voice.

All of the human experience is in there. All in one minute and eight seconds.

It. Is. Magic.

Andrew Sullivan Goes Indie (Again)

There’s some excitement and/or consternation on the Internets in the last day or so regarding writer and blogger Andrew Sullivan’s decision to go indie with his blog, taking it from the confines of The Daily Beast, where it had resided for the last couple of years (with The Atlantic’s site being its home prior to that, and — memory starts getting hazy here — Time’s site its home before that) and testing the waters of a $19.95 subscription fee. As I understand it, everyone will be able to view the site’s front page, but if the post continues past the front page, you’ll need a subscription after the first few hits.

As an example of how everything old is new again, in December 2002 I wrote this about Andrew Sullivan doing a fund drive on his site and asking readers to support him to the tune of — you guessed it — $20:

Sullivan held a pledge week for his blog last week, saying in essence that if a certain small percentage (1% or so) of his readership didn’t kick in $20 a year, he’d roll up his blog and go back to writing articles for people who actually paid him money. Apparently the threat worked, since Sullivan is going to announce later this week that he’s cleared enough in contributions to keep his blog going.

A number of anti-Sullivan types have gotten themselves into a tizzy about this, but I’m really hard-pressed to see why. Like Sullivan, I’m a professional writer; I get paid to write. Therefore I can’t see what possible reason one should have against a writer getting paid. Sullivan’s had the benefit of seeing how other various revenue models have worked online, and he’s trying one that allows maximum choice for the readers and doesn’t require every single reader to consider paying.

So if people want to voluntarily pay Sullivan money, why should anyone else care? His not-so-subtle threat that he’d pull the plug might have seemed unseemly to some, but if the man doesn’t get paid for his writing, he doesn’t eat. If he can get some portion his audience to support the blog he enjoys writing and they enjoy reading, more power to him.

Having said that, I don’t think the average Joe Blogger should start thinking that Andrew Sullivan’s success extracting cash from readers is going to translate to a blogoverse-wide rain of money. Very few bloggers have Sullivan’s audience, and even he is smart enough to realize that he’s lucky if he gets 1% of his audience to chip in. 1% of most bloggers’ audience comes to a few dozen people, and most people aren’t going to be able to suggest a recommended contribution of $20 like Sullivan has. There’s also the matter of content — i.e., whether people have content that’s worth supporting with cash. No offense, but most don’t.

Pretty much everything I said then still applies now. Sullivan’s been canny in watching how others have leveraged online success into revenue; he’s not shy about the fact this is his living; I suspect he’s going to be at least initially successful in his quest to pay for the site through subscriptions; the number of blog sites which could follow his example is very low indeed. What has changed in the decade since I wrote that piece is mostly the dynamic of Sullivan’s notoriety — these days he is in fact primarily known for The Daily Dish whereas a decade ago he was still best known for books and magazine articles — and the size of his audience.

There may also be a deeper understanding by the sort of people who follow Sullivan’s site (and sites like it, such as Talking Points Memo, which also recently opened itself up for subscriptions) that money does in fact have to come from somewhere in order to make these sites work. The Daily Dish has seven employees as I understand it, so it’s not just Sullivan who needs to eat here; it’s everyone else too. Sullivan pulls in a fair number of reasonably well-off people, relatively speaking; what he’s asking for is below an important psychological barrier for pricing (many of his readers pay $20 a day on coffee and lunch; it’s not a lot); and the fact that he’s spent years establishing a community and keeping his core group small I suspect will probably work to his advantage. He’s the online equivalent of the mom & pop store, if your mom & pop store dispensed punditry instead of baked goods. Or perhaps the better metaphor would be that he’s an artisanal pundit, and thus able to command a higher price for his handcrafted opinions from his select clientele.

As noted, I expect him to be reasonably successful at least in the short term — the real question will be whether the subscription base grows in the second and subsequent years. If it doesn’t, I don’t expect Sullivan to be terribly romantic about it; he’s got to eat, remember. Be that as it may, I hope he’s successful, because I enjoy his writing. And yes, I ponied up the $19.95 (plus a smidgen extra) for the next year.

To anticipate the question of whether I would/should/could do something like this, my short answer is that even if I could — a proposition I consider questionable for a number of reasons — I would prefer not to. Among other things it requires keeping track of subscriptions and handling customer service issues and doing all sorts of other stuff that I already know I would rather drag my tongue across a razor than to do. If I were hard up for cash I would probably put advertising up on the site before I did a subscription scheme. But I would be far more likely just to write something and put it up for sale; that seems to me to be the easier and more effective route for me.

Basically, if I were you I wouldn’t be waiting up nights for me to announce Whatever as a subscription site. I don’t imagine any of you will actually be disappointed by this.

Update, 2:33pm: Sullivan reports raising $300k+ in 24 hours with 12k subscribers so far. Details here.

SF Trends for 2013

In the Guardian today, Damien Walter makes predictions for what he sees are big trends in science fiction for 2013, including the mainstreaming of SF, a new interest in space, and the emergence of serialization, of which The Human Division is held up as the prime example. Well, I’m not going to complain about that.

One minor caveat to the piece: THD is not exclusive to Kindle; it’s being served to as many e-retailers as we can get it to. Otherwise, it’s all good, and an interesting read.

The 2013 Award Consideration Post

January 1st was the start of Hugo Award nominations, and for members of SFWA, the Nebula Award nominations are already underway. So for those of you nominating or thinking about nominating for these or other science fiction/fantasy-related awards, here are the works I have for you to consider for the 2013 nomination season:

Best Novel:

Redshirts, Tor Books, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, editor, June 2012 (Prologue and first four chapters available on Tor.com)

Best Short Story:

Dave and Liz and Chicago Save the World,” Chicon 7, May 2012 (subsequently published on Whatever, September 2012)

“Muse of Fire,” from the audio anthology Rip-Off!, edited by Gardner Dozois, Audible.com, December 2012

Best Related Work:

24 Frames into the Future: Scalzi on Science Fiction Films, Peter B. Olsen, editor, NESFA Press, February 2012 (Columns included in the book are available for viewing here)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form:

Mark Reads Shadow War of the Night Dragons,” uploaded to YouTube, written by John Scalzi and Mark Oshiro, performed by Mark Oshiro, June 2012

Best Fancast:

Journey to Planet Joco,” John Scalzi and Jonathan Coulton

I think that’s it.

Notes on the above:

* Redshirts, the book, is actually comprised of a novel (Redshirts), a novelette (“Coda One”) and two short stories (“Coda Two” and “Coda Three”), which is the cause of the book’s subtitle “A novel with three codas.” However, I think the entire thing works better considered as a slightly oddly-formatted whole. So while technically the Codas could be nominated in the short work categories, if one were inclined to do so, I think it’s best to consider Redshirts, the book, as an entire work in the novel category. I bring this up because I have already had people ask me what I thought about them nominating the codas in the short form categories; this is what I think.

* “Dave and Liz” was written specifically for Chicon 7, last year’s World Science Fiction Convention, of which I was toastmaster. The idea behind it was to give folks who were coming into town a slightly-skewed travelogue of the city, and I think it did that well enough. There would be some irony in a story written specifically for one Worldcon being nominated for a Hugo at another; that would amuse me quite a bit.

* Regarding 24 Frames Into the Future, I am indebted to the folks at NESFA for making a book out of my movie columns for AMC/FilmCritic.com, since shortly after the book came out the AMC folks called me up to tell me they were revamping their Web presence and killing off all the columns, including mine (in other words, it wasn’t personal, which is actually nice to know). It’s nice to have a permanent record of the work I did over four years, and so handsomely put together as well (the book is silver! Seriously!). So thank you, NESFA, and particularly Peter Olsen, who edited the work. You all rock.

* I am dead serious that you should consider “Mark Reads Shadow War of the Night Dragons”  for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. Mark Oshiro’s reactions to the piece — which he was reading cold, with no idea who I was or what the context was for the story — are so funny I almost peed myself watching him be literally agog at some of the passages. It really is the definitive reading of that particular text, I have to say. So, come on, give it some consideration for your vote this year. Doctor Who doesn’t need another three slots on the ballot, people. It’ll do just fine with two.

* I checked to see if “Journey to Planet JoCo” was eligible for the Fancast category, and my reading for the requirements of the category (“any non-professional audio- or video-casting with at least four (4) episodes that had at least one (1) episode released in the previous calendar year”) says it is. It’s non-professional (neither Jonathan or I made any money from it, and it was recorded by me off my computer, not in a studio), there are thirteen episodes, each of which aired daily, and all of them were in 2012. And I am certainly a fan of Coulton’s (and he of me, or so he says, although he might just be trying to make me feel better about myself). So there you have it. Check it out if you have not already.

Not a bad year of stuff.

Note to other award-eligible authors/creators/editors: For the last couple of years I’ve opened up a thread here to let you suggest your own eligible works, and I’ll be doing that this year as well. Look for it to go up tomorrow morning.