View From a Hotel Window, 11/4/16: Frankfort, KY + New LA Times Article (on the Election, as it Happens)

First, here’s the view directly out my hotel window here in Frankfort. I’m here for my last public event of the year, the Kentucky Book Fair. I have two events tomorrow: A panel at 11am entitled How Geek Entertainment Took Over the World, and a solo thing at 1:25pm on the main stage. Here’s the schedule for the whole event. And I’ll apparently also have a table where you can wander by and have me sign things. If you’re in Northern Kentucky tomorrow, swing on by. It’ll be lovely to see you.

(Actually, I just remembered I do have one more event this year: I’m interviewing Justine Larbalestier about her new book My Sister Rosa on November 18 in Columbus at the Book Loft. That should be fun! Come see us. But please note that while it’s a joint event, I’m there to promote Justine and her new book, which, incidentally, is very very good. I’m there in sort of a journalistic capacity.)

Second, I have a new column up at the Los Angeles Times, where I am a critic at large, talking about dystopias and elections, and why while dystopias are fun to read, you wouldn’t want to live in one. Naturally, I recommend the column, and suggest you read it and share it. And also, you know, that you go vote. So we can avoid the dystopia that’s staring us right in the face, waiting to happen.

40 thoughts on “View From a Hotel Window, 11/4/16: Frankfort, KY + New LA Times Article (on the Election, as it Happens)

  1. “Second, I have a new column up at the Los Angeles Times, where I am a critic at large, talking about dystopias and elections, and why while dystopias are fun to read, you wouldn’t want to live in one.”

    And yet, we may be headed there. In a hand cart. On a rocket ship. :-(

  2. Did you have any input on the picture that went above your opinion piece? It certainly wasn’t very flattering, however bland the caption was.

  3. Regarding the possibility of living in a dystopia. Panic.

    Hear me out! Panic early so that you get your panic out of the way so when there is no time to panic later you already have it done. I am going to run in circles while shouting for 20 minutes today so that later on I can be cool and collected.

    And yes, I already voted. Getting stuff done early. That’s me. (Sometimes)

  4. Great column. I enjoyed reading it even though it reminded me that we’re teeter-tottering on the edge of a dystopian situation. I advocate we airlift Trump and his minions to Mars. They can have their dystopia on the red planet and leave the US alone. It’s a damned nice place to live and work here. Let’s not ruin that folks!

  5. Honestly, I think dystopian futures are so last season! Reality is depressing enough. It’s way past time for writers and readers to “Tink Happy Tawts” about the future. It all adds to the fear mongering that is too prevalent right now. Why not write hopeful things? That’s what we need.

    And if any groups take the rhetoric and attempt to make it a reality after the election, there will be a lot of blood spilled here and I’ll just go home to the Fornax cluster for a little peace and quiet. This country is dangerously close to another civil war, and it will be waged over the same basic issues the last one was. Pitiable in this day and age, when most ignorance has become a willful choice. The Constitution itself – probably the most sacred document – is being trashed, and is in danger of being burned to ashes.

    Many of the people who want to “Make America Great Again” forget three important points. 1) That America is still pretty great, and 2) if you aren’t happy with the direction the country has gone, then it’s Congress that needs changing. The President can only do what Congress will facilitate. Neither Mr. Trump nor Mrs. Clinton can significantly change Congress.

    Congress has to do that, and they aren’t likely to agree on anything but their own pay raises. Gerrymandering is the vilest practice ever to be perpetrated on the citizens of this land, basically insuring that Congress chooses their constituents rather than the other way around.

    Oh, and the third thing the potential revolters have forgotten? That many of the folks voting for sanity also have guns and can also shoot straight, if required.

    (Grumble, grumble, mumble, mutter, shuffles away with head hung low.)

    Nice article, though. I’ll have to read that Pulitzer Winner. How could I be that far out of the loop? Maybe it came out when I was visiting home in the Fornax Cluster.

    Thanks, as always!

  6. There’s already a dissenting comment… *rolls eyes so hard mascara permanently tattooed on browbones*
    As always, an excellent read, Mr. Scalzi.

  7. Pam: Trump as the Prophet? I think if there’s to be a Nehemiah Scudder (first described by Heinlein in his posthumously published 1937 novel For Us, the Living), he would have to be a combination of Trump and a Pat Robertson/Jerry Falwell type.

  8. John, we could call this the “plot points” election. After all, when was the last time a leading presidential candidate was the subject/person of interest in two ongoing, major FBI criminal investigations this close to an election? When was the last time infighting at the highest levels between the DOJ and FBI burst into the open, complete with leaks alleging that “indictments” are near, this close to an election?

    Some of us feel that the “dystopia” is nigh regardless of who wins.

    FWIW, the forced pairing of Donald Trump with Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged was inspired in a baking with concrete and brownie mix kind-of-way.

  9. I hope your event with Justine goes well! I read the first chapter of My Sister Rosa and it was impressive. It also made me want to take my skin off and loudly announced to me that I have a bunch of issues with my sibling I wasn’t consciously aware of, so I won’t be reading the rest. Sadly.
    It’s weird to have a book speak to you that clearly and the only response you have is to cover your ears.
    But! Really well written, probably great for most other people.

  10. Re: dystopias. I’ve had a few periods where I read a lot of dystopian novels (it’s an entire subset of YA, weirdly) and while they’re always exciting they’re often very depressing as well. After my last dive into the genre (S.M. Stirling’s “The Change” novels) I realized that in order for a dystopic novel to work, a *whole* lot of people have to die, and in such a scenario, I would definitively be one of the dead ones. Which is just depressing as heck, so I’ve given them up.

  11. Loved your plot points in the article. Republish it here so it will forever be in the Whatever archives, please.

  12. Trump is not remotely Nehemiah Scudder. He will take support from religious extremists, but he isn’t one and he isn’t going to do much to push their agenda if he wins.

    Pat Robertson/Jerry Falwell/Ted Cruz – Yeah if one of them was running it would be a good fit, but they aren’t.

    Also, I really don’t expect widespread violence at the polls. Intimidation, maybe but not large amounts of blood.

    (If he is NS, though, it is relatively good news for the rest of the world, since NS was very isolationist.)

  13. Addendum: Not trying to defend Trump. He’d be a horrible president and lots of terrible stuff would happen. But different terrible stuff than the stuff not-described in the unwritten Heinlein novels The Sound Of His Wings, Eclipse, and The Stone Pillow.

  14. The Donald will lead us into Dystopia and That Woman isn’t all that bad? You truly are a science fiction writer who never ceases to entertain!

  15. Well, for those of you who are busy squawking about our host’s very clear political preferences, you could try a few of the existing dystopic states on for size. The UK has been plunging head-first into dystopia, to the point where actual science fiction writers who are writing dystopic near-future science fiction set in the United Kingdom can’t keep up (step forward, Charlie Stross). Or you could have Australia, where we appear to be heading toward a sort of mixture of neo-Victorianism (for the wealthy) and neo-feudalism (for everyone else) at the speed of governmental incompetence (and we have a very incompetent government at present) – I should note that in the Victorian era, Australia wasn’t a sovereign nation.

    It’s possible to see these things for yourselves if you just open your eyes and look beyond the borders of your own nation. You don’t have to experience it for yourselves.

  16. I would conjecture that one reason why people like post-apocalyptic dystopias [1] in particular is that they offer the prospect of being able to hit reset on the whole society.

    To people that feel like things are going poorly, or even that things would be So Much Better If It Weren’t For Amendment N [2], this can seem like an awfully attractive prospect. No more taxes, no more annoying neighbors, and if people bother you too much, you can just shoot them! Even if they’re not zombies! Even better, a well-done apocalypse also takes out enough other people so that there should be plenty of everything for everyone [3].

    Of course, this works better as a form of wish fulfillment if you honestly believe that you will (a) be one of those who survives the original apocalypse, and (b) has the skills and temperament to survive in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

    But I think that there are a lot of people who really would believe both (a) and (b), and think that any hardships they’d suffer would be worth it if it Got Them Out From Under The Thumb of The Man. Even though almost none of them have ever done power- and oil- and pesticide-free subsistence farming, or had to defend themselves against starving people who don’t know how to do subsistence farming either.

    [1] As opposed to dystopias that evolve more organically and less dramatically.
    [2] Pick your favorite. The 20th or something. ;)
    [3] Some restrictions may apply: electricity, water and sewage service, etc.

  17. hugh57: Sure, Cruz and Huckabee can do the pious bit, but they’re unappealing in front of cameras and/or microphones. Trump (although I avoided The Apprentice assiduously) apparently was sufficiently appealing that NBC kept his show on for years.

    My worry concerning future U.S. elections is that some other experienced performer, following in the footsteps of Reagan and Trump, is going to have the requisite mass appeal to be a sufficiently successful demagogue to win a national election.

  18. Experience has taught me that people rooting for dystopias invariably picture themselves as Mad Max, when in reality they’d be lucky if they just lost their fingers to a boomerang.

  19. Does Ray Bradbury’s ‘The Pedestrian’ count as a dystopia? I think so. In such a small space he threw up a world where just walking out was a crime, So much like today. In fact, everyday life for a lot of people. [In my world, existing while Maori seems to still be a crime]

  20. Joshua said “Even though almost none of them have ever done power- and oil- and pesticide-free subsistence farming”. Heck, a lot of them have never grown a single meal from scratch.

    Ever made even one jar of spaghetti sauce at home? First you grow a shitload of tomatoes, (and maybe a few onions and herbs) and then you spend hours and hours cutting and cooking and processing. For just a few jars. And this is doing it the *easy* way, with a nice warm house and grow lights to start the seedlings months ahead, fertilizer, easy access to other commercial growing products like tomato cages or supports, pest control products, water right at the plants, running water in the kitchen, and an inside stove (with gas!) and a canner and canning jars and lids and food mills….

    Try it sometime.

    This is the single simplest exercise I know to get people to understand how much WORK feeding themselves is.

  21. Hey, the Democrats should be thankful for Trump – Hillary would have lost to any even remotely normal Republican candidate (obviously, excludes Cruz, Carson and Santorum).

    I’m not looking forward to the descent into anarchy that will follow a Trump victory, however. Even that he has a 1/3rd chance of winning is a terrible indictment of the American people, press, politics, and educational system.

    If Hillary wins, she’ll probably be the first President to be impeached before she’s sworn in. So there’s that.

  22. NtRChris appears to be living in his own dystopia already. How’s the weather over there, Chris?

  23. I gave up on dystopias for the same reason I gave up on “oh, for the good old days” fiction – in both, I and mine are disposable. We’re the ones dying of cholera, diptheria or starvation in one, or radiation poisoning, mob violence or starvation in the other. Count me in for modern civilization, flawed though it may be!

  24. @JustaTech, way up there: I recently picked up NK Jemisin”s The Fifth Season, made it through a couple of chapters, and had to put it down. I love her writing, but I have a 14-month old son and every time the main character thought of her own (murdered) three year old, I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. I think sometimes books can speak to us a little *too* clearly.

  25. @Not the Reddit Chris S.: “I’m not looking forward to the descent into anarchy that will follow a Trump victory.”

    If Trump wins, the catharsis is going to be intense. Then Vermont will threaten to secede.

  26. @tariqata – RE The Fifth Season, I’m right there with you! My kids are 4 and 17 months and those scenes were really hard to read. It does ease up a bit though, and in my opinion the book is so good it’s definitely worth pushing through.

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