Daily Archives: September 6, 2013

First Review For The Mallet of Loving Correction

It’s from the San Francisco/Sacramento Book Review, which says:

Scalzi is thoughtful, witty, and occasionally profane, and he pulls no punches… an entertaining and thought-provoking read.

Sweet.

Those of you who have preordered the book may have your copies already, and Subterranean Press has copies in stock if you just can’t wait. Otherwise, the book officially ships one week from today, also not-at-all coincidentally the 15th anniversary of Whatever. Hooray!

RIP, Ann Crispin

Over at Making Light, Jim Macdonald notes that science fiction writer and Writer Beware co-founder Ann Crispin passed away this morning.

I knew Ann both before being SFWA president and while I was in the position. No one I know worked harder than she and WB co-head Victoria Strauss did to make sure that writers were aware of scams and shady characters out there in the world. She was also a heck of a writer, and a hell of a good person.

She will be deeply missed. Many good thoughts to her family, particularly her husband Michael Capobianco, who is also one of the most decent people it’s been my honor to know.

A sad day for science fiction, and for writers.

Some Final Hugo-Related Thoughts

Getting these in today because I was given five business days to be giddy about the Hugo (including Monday, even though it was a national holiday) and after that I have to get back to real life:

* In my awards speech I did manage to thank most of the people who I felt were instrumental in the success of Redshirts, but since I was a little dazed and hadn’t written down a speech, there were three people I missed, and I’d like to give them some props right now. The first is my agent Ethan Ellenberg, and the second is his co-agent Evan Gregory, who handles my foreign sales. Ethan has always been the best of agents, Evan is a close second, and I’ve always been grateful to be represented by them. Good agents can be hard to find, and great to have. Ethan and Evan are the best.

Third: Jonathan Coulton, who wrote the theme song for Redshirts and captured the essence of book in four minutes, which is pretty cool if you think about it. I’m not always a fan of book trailers, but songs for my books? Yes, please. I’m already thinking about who I might ask to do a song for the next novel.

Also, in a larger sense I would also like to thank the booksellers who got behind Redshirts and hand sold it to a bunch of folks, as I know many did. That’s the sort of advertising that in fact you can’t buy, and I think it made a big difference in the fate of the book. You guys rock.

(Edit, 12:00pm: Gaaah, I also forgot to say how thrilled I was to win my Hugo on the same night as so many of my friends, including (but not limited to!) Mary Robinette Kowal, Kate Baker, Howard Tayler, Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, John Picacio, Elizabeth Bear, Cat Valente, Seanan McGuire, Paul Cornell and Mur “I won a Campbell which is not a Hugo but I am still awesome” Lafferty. I could not ask for a better Hugo class to be in.)

* In my wanderings on the Web looking at comments about Redshirts‘ win, I saw a couple of people wondering (to varying degrees of dread) if this means that I will be rushing out Redshirts 2: The Redshirtening or something similar to capitalize on the burst of Hugo attention.

The answer: No. While I reserve the right to change my mind if I’m ever confronted with a seven figure payday for it, for the moment there is no plan for a Redshirts sequel. One, I’m contracted for two different novels already: Lock In, which I’m currently writing, and the second installment of The Human Division. Both of those are going to keep me busy for a while. Two, I think Redshirts stands pretty well on its own and I’m content to let it be its own thing.

I think it’s almost certain that I will write more humorous science fiction of the sort that Redshirts is, because I have pretty good empirical evidence that it does pretty well for me, and I for it. Indeed, I already have some ideas I am kicking around for a book of that sort. But again, that’s going some time in the future. In the meantime I’ll try to make the novels I am contracted for worth your while when they come out. The way to capitalize on the Hugo is to keep writing books as well as I can. I know! Crazy idea! Even so.

* Someone asked me in e-mail where I thought Redshirts ranked in terms of previous Hugo Best Novel winners. My answer: You’re kidding, right? Dude, it’s been a Hugo winner for five days. Come back in another twenty years and enough time will have passed for a more accurate placement in the canon. Also, I’m the author of the book. I am officially incapable of being objective about it. In short, I am the wrong person to ask, and this isn’t really the right time to ask. In the fullness of time, I hope it’s ranked above They’d Rather Be Right; if it is, I’m good.

That said, you know what?  Redshirts did all right in the last year. It’s sold very well, which is a thing. It also won a Hugo, a Locus and an RT Book Reviews Reviewer’s Choice Award. And now that awards season is over and no harm can come of mentioning it, I’ll also note that it was nominated for a Nebula Award as well (I declined the nomination, for reasons which should be obvious when you remember which organization gives out the Nebulas and what my position in the organization was at the time). It’s also, for better or worse, exactly the book I wanted to write, written exactly how I wanted to write it.

In the fullness of time, we’ll see where Redshirts lands in the critical view of science fiction history. I’m not too worried about it; hopefully I will be on to other books. Here in the present, I am very happy with how my little book has done. I’m proud of it, and humbled that so many people seem to have taken it to their hearts.

* Out there on the Intarweebs, there have been at least a couple of snit fits re: me and Redshirts winning the Best Novel Hugo, most notably from a military science fiction writer of some note who should know better but apparently doesn’t. With regard to his snit fit, what I wrote earlier this week about these things applies saliently (see the sixth point in particular), so there’s no need to address it in any detail.

However, given the fact that this one fellow felt compelled to blather about me, at length, for three days, in an increasingly loopy manner, I felt a response worthy of his intense efforts was required. Here it is, in its totality:

There, that should do it. As a bonus, it works for several other complainers equally well.

* One final time: Thank you to everyone who has taken the time this week here, in e-mail and elsewhere, to congratulate me and otherwise send good thoughts my way. This week has been a hell of a lot of fun for me, and you have been a big part of the reason why. Thanks again.

The Big Idea: David Hair

The clash of civilizations: Not always a great thing to live through, but a often very interesting to read about in a book. Which brings us to David Hair’s latest novel, Mage’s Blood, the first in series of books known as the Moontide Quartet. He’s got thoughts on civilizations, both in his books and here on Earth.

DAVID HAIR:

Bridge over Troubled Water, by Simon & Garfunkel . . . was absolutely NOT the inspiration for the Moontide Quartet. I think if I was going to write a book about bridges based on a song, it would have been On the Floe by Thin White Rope: “There is a bridge they’re afraid to complete; creatures walk on it, wearing ruts with their feet”. Cool song, great “lost” band.

No, Moontide is about East and West, and how never the twain shall meet – or rather, that they should meet: because only by meeting and understanding each other will the narrative of our world be changed from the current cycle of hatred and exploitation.

I was raised very much in the West, in New Zealand, and worked mostly in financial services. Very unexpectedly I found myself living in India, from 2007-2010. I’d never lived in a “developing country” before and it was a wonderful, viewpoint-changing experience. To suddenly be transported into a place where whole swathes of the population live and work on the side of the street in lean-tos you wouldn’t have kept your dog or your firewood in at home was eye-opening, to say the least. To see such places built right up to the edge of massive marble and gilt edifices was doubly stunning. Sure, we were living in a compound with guards and servants (and that was weird too), but we certainly didn’t remain penned inside. Some days I’d walk for hours around the city, to discover what was out there. You can never leave your front door in Delhi without seeing something you’ve never come across before. We visited dozens of other cities and towns too, saw amazing monuments and abject poverty, colours, sounds, smells that alter you. Basically, I spent four years being a wide-eyed tourist.

I loved it, and would go back in a heartbeat. But there were scary aspects  too. While we were there, bombs exploded in markets we frequented, though thankfully not while we were present. There was a pattern to such events: they tended to happen just before the evening news, so you learned to tailor your movements accordingly. We visited Mumbai a few weeks prior to the 26/11/2008 terror attacks, including going to the Taj Hotel and Leopold’s Café, both struck in the atrocities. A good friend of ours was in cell phone contact with someone trapped inside the Taj during the attack (thankfully, they got out alive). Friends and acquaintances were posted to Afghanistan. East versus West was very much on our minds.

Cultures have been clashing throughout existence. It’s not a new idea for a book, but it is pervasive, arguably the fundamental theme of our times: from 9/11 through Iraq and Afghanistan to the financial crises, engendering many cultural responses. Some are overtly on topic, like Zero Dark Thirty, while others are directly influenced (any movie with a swarthy Eastern-looking villain). Other such influences are more subtle, like the resurgence of zombie movies: hordes of incomprehensible invaders who just keep coming at you. All the fear and insecurities of our age are subtly  linked to the image of unassailable towers crumbling from an utterly unexpected and horrifying attack. Any book that wants to deal with East and West, in any form, does so in the shadow of that moment.

For myself, a fantasy-head from childhood, any attempt I made to capture how I felt about that theme would need to cover both my fascination with the East, my internal responses to seeing suffering and splendour side by side, and the moral ambiguity of the conflicts we see played out on the news every night. I wanted it to be big (because I love big fantasy stories), portrayed mostly from street-level (I prefer “everyman” protagonists), and to show both sides of the conflict. I wanted good and evil to be played out in the choices of the protagonists, without any blanket “all people of this race are good/bad” fall-backs. I wanted it to be primarily a tragedy: because that is what conflict is.

It’s most definitely not an allegory: I’m not trying to make any specific points about real world events. There are no shadow versions of Bush and Hussein! However I did use many real-world words quite deliberately, so that elements of the story would feel familiar and require minimal explanation to the reader: it’s a long enough story without having to explain too many of the words and customs, and those long descriptive passages tend to attract red ink from my editors. Oh, and it’s got NOTHING to do with the events of the Third Crusade of 1189-92.

In terms of the Western side of the story, one place the story definitely goes to is social class, specifically in terms of the purity of a mage’s blood. In Moontide, the bloodline of a mage most definitely matters: a pure-bred mage is intrinsically much stronger than a mixed-blood mage. This distinction between the haves and have-nots is fundamental to the Moontide world, and drives much of the action.

Any writer brings their own baggage: in New Zealand we pride ourselves on fairness, sensible and practical thinking, and a “classless society” (as distinct from a “tasteless society”). Sometimes we even live up to those ideals. I like to feel that we Kiwis can see two sides to most conflicts. The result, I hope, is a story that is even-handed, colourful, and transports you to a place that is both familiar but alien. My goal is to entertain, first and foremost, and if it achieves that, then I’m happy. And if you emerge with a desire to see foreign places and understand them better, all well and good. It is that sort of East meets West story: of people coming together and finding that we’re all human after all. I think we need more of them.

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Mage’s Blood: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s Web page.