Reader Request Week 2017 #5: Remembering Dreams

Fabrizio Toso asks:

Do you remember what you dream? If yes, has anything from your dreams found its way in your books?

I do remember a lot of what I dream, yes. Not all of it — some of it slips past me in the morning — but certainly enough of my dreams that I have a memory bank filled with them. I suspect this is also because I’m generally a lucid dreamer, which means I almost always know when I’m dreaming. Being a lucid dreamer has a number of advantages (for example, I’ve never really had a nightmare, because I’ll just wake myself up if the dream becomes too unpleasant), and one of them, I think, is that because some part of my brain is always observing in the dream, it remembers to remember most of the interesting dreams.

That said, I can’t think of anything I’ve dreamt that’s ended up in a novel, or a dream being an inspiration for something I’ve written in one of my stories. My dreams, frankly, aren’t particularly well-plotted, and even in individual moments they’re often disjointed and nonsensical. Even the ones that have a throughline aren’t the stuff of great literature. For example, the other night I dreamed I was skydiving in Australia, and then suddenly I was on the ground, walking around, and since I didn’t remember landing I was worried I was dead, so I went into a donut shop to order a donut, on the idea that if the person at the register could see me, I was clearly alive (she could see me; I ordered a donut; I only had American and Canadian money on me so couldn’t buy it). As a dream, mildly interesting; as something that should make its way into a story of mine, not so much.

(Honestly, most dreams are pretty boring, including mine, when they’re described to other people. The ones most people want to share are of the “I was in some place! And then something surreal happened!” variety, which I’m okay hearing as long as one is relatively quick about it. I’ll listen to nightmare stories also, because I don’t have them and I’m sympathetic to people who have had a good night’s sleep ruined by them. But generally, meh. Dreams, like one’s children’s school achievements, exist in the “more interesting to you than to anyone else” category. Please share, if you must, briefly.)

In terms of plotting, or of vivid imagery, that’s relevant to my books, my most productive time in bed is not dream time, but that period of time either just before I go to sleep, or just after I wake up. That’s when the connections in my brain are kind of whipping around wildly, and I’ll get interesting ideas out of the blue or something close to visions that are applicable to things I’m writing. I’m not asleep and it’s not dreaming, but I’m not always precisely awake, either (it’s also the time where my brain creates amazing melodies for songs, and if I will myself more awake, I can never remember them precisely. I write fantastic songs, people, in those liminal minutes. You’ll never hear them, alas).

Another thing my brain will do for me storywise while I sleep is work on plot points — if, just before I go to sleep, I say to my brain, “okay, while I’m sleeping I need you to think about [plot point in question],” my brain will do so as I snooze. I don’t have to say it out loud (although sometimes I do), but I do have to specifically tell my brain to work on it while I sleep. And you know what? If I ask it to, there’s a better than even chance that when I wake up, I have some new options for that plot point. They won’t always be good options, but they’ll still me more (and different) than the ones my conscious brain would have provided. I’m not sure if anyone else does this sort of subconscious problem-solving, but it’s worked for me for a while.

I’ll note that just because I don’t use dreams for story ideas/plotting/etc doesn’t mean other people can’t or don’t, or that I don’t doubt people who say ideas come to them in dreams. If they do, good for them! I’m glad it works that way for them. It doesn’t work that way for me. I tend to think of my dreams more as my brain sorting things that happened during the day, or just playing around when it doesn’t have my conscious self at the wheel.

And I’m fine with this; I like my dreams, by and large. They can do whatever they like. If I’m unhappy with ’em, well. I’ll wake up.

(There is still time to ask a question for Reader Request Week. Go here for all the details, and to ask your question.)

Reader Request Week 2017 #4: Haters and How I Deal With Them

For this one I received a couple of email requests, and I’m going to conflate them into a paraphrased question which goes like this:

Your site motto is “taunting the tauntable,” so why don’t you go after your haters more?

And I’m all, ooooh, so let’s talk about my haters a bit.

My haters generally break down into three categories:

1. A specific, embarrassingly devoted hater and his few dozen fans/sockpuppets;

2. A wodge of right-wing SF/F writers and their fans who got het up during the “Puppies” nonsense;

3. Various alt-right cranks who try to gang up on me on Twitter.

I’ll note there is some overlap between all three categories.

So, to begin, here are some things I know about haters, and how they relate to me:

First, I acknowledge that people are in fact perfectly free to hate and despise me, for whatever various reasons they choose to do so, and there’s very little I can or want to do about that, particularly when the John Scalzi they have in their head (and then assert to others exists in the world) has very little to do with me. People feel how they feel, and some people just don’t like me, and probably never will. Indeed, I could argue that there is a small contingent of people who at this point feel professionally obliged not to like me. And, well. C’est la vie. There are enough people in the world who do like me that I don’t generally feel a lack of positive attention, either personally or professionally.

Second, I recognize that the haters generally have a pretty low impact on my life, professionally or personally. Despite several years of committed hater action against me, including the active attempt to spread lies about my character and the state of my career, I’m one of the best-selling, best-known authors in my genre (and do pretty well overall as a writer), with lots of friends and colleagues, and some enviable professional opportunities. If my haters have been trying to drag me down (more on that in a second), they are delightfully incompetent at it, and have been for a while. I’ll note that this is a result specific to me; other people with other haters may have other, different and more serious problems with theirs.

Third, my time is limited these days — I have books to write, tours and other professional travel to undertake, other projects to develop, and (somewhere in there) friends and family and pets to cherish and spend time with. How much time should I devote to haters? Site motto notwithstanding, these days, the return on investment for me for engaging with haters in more than cursory, snarky fashion is pretty low. It doesn’t especially benefit my career, and while it used to be kind of diverting to poke at haters, these days it’s a low quality experience overall; it’s not as much fun anymore. Maybe I’ve grown up a bit — not a bad thing for someone who is 47 — or maybe the haters have just gotten more stupidly programmatic. Or both! Either way, meh.

Fourth, I’ve come to realize that some people are using hating me primarily as a transactional enterprise; they see some personal business advantage to holding me up as someone to be hated, and doing so allows them to, say, peddle to the gullible and strident wares that they might not otherwise be able to profitably market. To this respect the hating isn’t actually about me — if I didn’t exist, they’d just pick someone else who suited their needs. That being the case, why get worked up about it? Especially if it’s not having any noticeable effect on my own personal or professional fortunes.

Fifth, I look at who it is that is hating on me in a public fashion. In general they tend to be awful people, or people aspiring to be awful people, or (unfortunately) people who aren’t themselves awful but have managed to get themselves used by awful people and would rather double down on I meant to do that than extricate themselves. I’m okay being hated by them.

Sixth, look: Some people are just fucking unhappy. For all sorts of reasons. And that’s on them, but it’s easier to put it on someone else, and hey, why not me? I’m a pretty convenient target.

(There’s a seventh thing here, too: the possibility that somewhere along the way I’ve done something that genuinely merits someone hating me. Honesty compels me to admit this is a possibility. And to those people: I’m sorry I fucked up somewhere along the way, and that in fucking up, I hurt you. If you ever want to talk to me about it, I’ll listen. With that said, I don’t think most people who are getting off on hating at me publicly are in this category. Most of them, I don’t know or have even met.)

So, what to do with the three general categories of haters? In reverse order:

Alt-right cranks on Twitter: Generally employ the Scamperbeasts rule, and otherwise mostly ignore and mute. Life’s too short. Occasionally I’ll condescend to them before I mute them. The good news is that Twitter’s muting functions have improved recently so muting their nonsense is even easier than it was before.

Right-wing SF/F writers and fans: I mean, at this point I think this has generally fizzled out, no? I was a useful synecdoche for everything they thought was wrong in science fiction and fantasy for a couple of years, but the end result of that was… the world of science fiction and fantasy continuing to go on anyway, because at the end of the day publishing, even in science fiction and fantasy, is about what sells, and what sells is me (and a whole bunch of other people, including some of the right-wing writers who were griping about me). I didn’t go anywhere, they didn’t go anywhere, and ultimately I suspect most of the smarter writers and fans who were amped up about me just let it go. Which is fine with me! I wish the writers all the success they can have, and their fans happiness in reading. I’m perfectly happy to let all that go and move on. With that said I’ll still occasionally see someone in this grouping snarking on me. You do you, dudes.

Specific, embarrassingly devoted hater and his pals: I don’t have much time for this dude anymore, and I suspect it really bothers him. Cultivating the idea of a feud between us is a cornerstone of his publishing strategy, and asserting equivalency in our careers is how he tries to convince others he’s important. And while it’s nice every now and again to raise lots of money for charitable causes off his obsession with me, in a general sense I’ve been kind of busy. I pretty much don’t think of him unless he’s jumping up and down to get my attention, or trying to make a buck off my name. It’s a lopsided deal — he needs me, but I don’t need him for anything. My real annoyance at this point is that other folks are unintentionally doing this jerk’s desperately attention-seeking work for him, sending me updates on the latest nonsense he’s saying or doing, involving the version of me he peddles to his pals. If all y’all could resist the temptation, I’d be obliged. I don’t actually care about this dude.

“Don’t actually care” is where I mostly am with my haters these days, in fact, and I acknowledge it’s a nice place to be in. I’m blessed with work I like and people in my life I love, and the time I have now is all the time I’ll ever have. I plan to spend as much of it focusing on the things I like and people I love as I can, and rather little of it on the people who get off on hating me. Go on and hate me, dudes. It’s your karma. I have better things to do with my time.

(There is still time to ask a question for Reader Request Week. Go here for all the details, and to ask your question.)