And as is tradition, one from the other side of the day: your sunrise.
I hope you enjoy your day with friends and loved ones, or at least a fun video game.
And as is tradition, one from the other side of the day: your sunrise.
I hope you enjoy your day with friends and loved ones, or at least a fun video game.
2014: Not exactly a vintage year in my opinion. Nevertheless, a year in which I wrote several things here worth remembering here at the end of this year’s days. This year the memorable pieces were primarily about writing, and sexism and/or discrimination, with the latter being viewed particularly through the odious nonsense of GamerGate. About US politics I wrote almost nothing because to be blunt, in general the best I could manage out this nation’s politics this last year was an exasperated eyeroll.
For this list I also trimmed out a lot of my amusing Twitter escapades; those will show up in their own compiled list. But a few of them are here, for reasons.
These posts are arranged chronologically.
We’ve got a week left, 2014. Let’s try to keep it together, shall we.
Athena, Neil Gaiman and I talk about a duck, Other Fathers, and buttons.
In the old days, when Athena was much younger, the only way she knew it was her birthday was when we would burst into her room first thing in the morning with a cake and candles and sing “Happy Birthday” to her. Eventually she figured out the date, but we still burst into her room with a cake because, you know. Family tradition. Our daughter seems pretty tolerant of this. Because who doesn’t like breakfast cake? No one, that’s who.
Also, as is the custom with our people, we celebrated our offspring’s sixteenth nativity by presenting her with a large inflatable duck.
Is this not the custom of your people as well? No? Hmmmm.
In any event, I wish you and yours the best for this, the 16th Athenamas. May your day be utterly fabulous. And if you should wish to wish my daughter a happy birthday, I would not look askance upon it.
Dear Matt and Luke:
We just read through your story treatment of The Birth of Jesus. We love it. Love it. Seriously, “love” is not nearly the right word for what we feel about what will almost certainly become a perennial seasonal classic. I hope the two of you have made space for awards on your mantelpieces; I think it’s about to get very crowded up there!
We’ve shared this important piece of work around, including with the marketing folks and our intern, Chad. While everyone agrees that your vision for this story is critical and elemental, we do have a few notes that we feel will help this film reach the audiences who so desperately need to hear its message, while at the same time staying true to this timeless tale. You’ll find them below.
1. We’re a little worried about the title. The Birth of Jesus has a vintage feel to it; we need something a little more four-quadrant, which will bring in audiences of all ages. How do you feel about Christ: Origins? It’s punchy and gives us a template for sequels, if we go that route (Christ: Dead Sea Rising and Christ: The Final Chapter are two titles Chad suggested). Let us know.
2. Mary and Joseph are central characters and we love that they are clearly there for each other and involved with each other, no matter what. That’s a real Notebook-like vibe that date night audiences really go for. But you don’t give them a lot of dialogue that grounds their characters into their relationship. Can you punch up their scenes, give them some banter, and maybe inject some humor into it? A pregnancy and birth offer up a lot of opportunities for zany slapstick scenarios. Chad noted that Juno rode that basic idea to a screenplay Oscar, and he has a point. Think about it.
3. On that note: Channing Tatum as Joseph?
4. We were worried about the logistics of having a birth scene near a manger — it’s a little downmarket for our audiences — until marketing pointed out this gives us an opportunity to create a line of stuffed animals timed to the film release. That really helps us with the 10-and-under audience.
With that in mind, please give thought to how we can incorporate into the birth scene a group of wisecracking, animatronic livestock, who comment on the action. Also think about how we can make the livestock extensible beyond plush toys. We’re talking spin-off animated series and theme park characters here.
5. Chad’s idea here: Ariana Grande as a baby lamb who is Jesus’ first pal. Or even better: Sidekick! Then we can also get her to sing the movie theme song. We’ve got Charli XCX writing that. It’s gonna be huge.
6. The angel announcing the birth of Jesus to the shepherds is a powerful scene, one that’s really going to justify the CGI and 3D conversion. The thing we were wondering is why an angel — a supremely powerful creature — announces the birth of the single most important person in the world to… shepherds. We’re just not seeing the utility there, and the shepherds don’t really do much with the information.
Then Chad had a suggestion: What if the angel is secretly a fallen angel, and the shepherds aren’t really shepherds at all, but a secret order of demon worshippers disguised as shepherds, who have been waiting for centuries, at the ready, to kidnap the savior foretold by prophecy at the moment of his birth, and the fallen angel is telling them so they can put their dark plan into action? Now, that makes sense! Even better, we can have the sheep they guard act as spies for the forces of good — the lamb played by Ariana Grande can race to the inn to tell the other livestock, who will then form a woolly shield around Jesus. I get a lump in my throat just thinking about it.
7. Video game idea — Christ: Race to the Manger. Let’s talk to Electronic Arts about that.
8. This takes us to the Three Wise Men. Frankly, we were all a little confused by these characters. They sort of come out of nowhere and their reasons for offering up very expensive gifts are sketchy at best. So marketing and Chad spitballed it and came up with a couple of things we think you’re going to love. One, the three wise men are not from The East — they’re from The Future (which they call “The East” as future slang). Two, they’ve come from the future not just to give gifts, but to act as bodyguards for the baby Jesus against the demon-worshipping hordes. They are future ninjas for Christ.
Three, their gifts have changed slightly. One of them (who we see played by Idris Elba) brings a robot, who will teach Jesus about humanity and martial arts. The second one (Sarah Jessica Parker) will be bringing the traditional fragrances, only now they’re from Chanel — marketing will work out the deal. The third (Jack Black) brings gold, because gold. The battle scene between the Awesome Jesus Ninja Triad (it’s a zippier description, much better for action figure sales) and the demon worshipping hordes is going to be spectacular; we’re already negotiating with Yuen Woo-ping for the wire-fu scenes.
9. Also, to secure Chinese financing, we’ll have to move the location of the birth from Bethlehem to Shanghai. I’m sure we can find a way to make this canonically sound.
10. The only problem with the demon worshippers vs Future Ninjas subplot is that by necessity it pushes Joseph and Mary out of the narrative frame a little more than we would like. The good news is once again our intern Chad has come up with an ingenious solution — what if Joseph isn’t really the humble carpenter he’s been portrayed as, but has also traveled even further back in time than the Awesome Jesus Ninja Triad, because he knows they were defeated by the demon-worshipping hordes, and that he is Mary and Jesus’ only hope of survival? So the visit to Bethlehem, the trip to the inn, the birth in the manger are all set-up the real story of the film: The final confrontation between Joseph, Warrior of the 37th Century, and Asphalbelub, the fallen angel — who is also revealed to be secretly from the future, not to mention a Venusian/Murderbot hybrid.
(This is important because suddenly this story, previously magical — and let’s face it, maybe a little far-fetched — is now grounded in actual science! Because time-traveling warriors and murderbot hybrids are plausible in a physical universe. This is like how George Lucas explained the Force with Midi-chlorians — and boy, that cleared up a lot of questions for everyone.)
Naturally, we need to work on the details, but according to Chad, it all ends up with Joseph defeating Asphalbelub, putting Mary and Jesus on his timechopper (cleverly disguised as the manger this whole time!) and returning to the 37th Century, where Jesus learns fighting skills and matter manipulation from his robot guru before coming back down the time stream to take on the Romans, all of which leads up to the ultimate, final confrontation between him and Mecha-Caesar.
I think you’ll agree these new elements really work to strengthen the story of Jesus’ birth.
Also, we’ve made Chad a producer on the film.
Let us know what you think — after the new year, of course. We understand there are a few holidays to get through between now and then.
Peter Stone, VP of Story Development
A lovely way to go into the longest night of the year.
This will be the last of these, I expect, of the year, so: What here looks good to you? Share in the comments.
I know many of you are curious about how Ghlaghghee is doing, so: She’s still with us and the medicine she’s taking to clear out the fluid in her lungs seems to be doing the job, since she’s not been having any of the troubling horking coughs which were troubling her before. On the other hand she spends almost all of her time sleeping and when she’s not sleeping she is moving very very slowly, and not whole lot. So while I think the danger of imminent death has been lessened, I’m not entirely sure she’s better. Again, we’ll have to see what happens. In the meantime and at the very least, she’s comfortable and cared for.
I do want to take a moment and thank the folks, here and on Twitter, who has been sending good thoughts our way. It’s kind of you to do so, and appreciated.
Over at Wired there’s a piece on the JoCo Cruise, the annual pilgrimage of nerds and geeks to the Caribbean, via a cruise ship, whilst they are being entertained by nerd celebrities like Jonathan Coulton (for whom the cruise is named), Paul & Storm, and, this year at least, me (I’m running a writing track on the ship). The piece is written by Adam Rogers, an editor at Wired, who in the interest of disclosure I met and became friendly with during the cruise (I’m quoted a couple of places in the piece).
It’s an interesting piece, in part because a significant thread of the story is Adam’s personal reaction to the cruise, which is filtered through the process of grappling through his own personal nerdiness. Adam is both attracted to and unsettled by the community and dynamic of the JoCo cruise — he considers the idea that the cruise both constitutes a “victory lap” for geek culture and may suffer from epistemic closure — and of course he has to spend time digging into both.
On balance I think it’s pretty fair to the cruise and the people on it. It’s easy but not quite correct to say that Adam’s overthinking what is, at the end of the day, just a cruise. One, because overthinking is what geeks and nerds do, after all. Two, because while it is a cruise there really is a community dynamic to the thing that makes it more than just a cruise, and that community is in fact specific to the cruise, not just an extension of the larger geek community. I don’t know if people who go on, say, the National Review cruise think of themselves as a specific community in the same way Seamonkeys (JoCo cruise attendees) think of themselves as one, but I have a feeling that what’s going on with the JoCo cruises really is its own specific thing.
I will say it’s the reason this JoCo Cruise will be my third one, however. I honestly don’t give a crap about the trip — either the ship or its destinations; cruise ships are like hotels with malls dropped on top of them, chucked out to sea, and while it’s nice to be in the warm sun in early February, it’s not as if the cruise destinations give you an authentic island experience. I like the people on the cruise and the nice little world they create on the ship. It’s the feature that keeps me coming back.
In any event, the article is a good read and I can recommend it. It does make me feel a little sad for Adam, though. As a journalist he had to spend a lot of time thinking about what the cruise meant, which speaking from some experience meant standing outside of it. I think he might enjoy it from the inside next time.
It was a Twitter hashtag. I was bored. SUE ME.
Being asked if I have any comments on this note from John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan, about ebook pricing and subscriptions. Briefly:
1. With regard to the ebook pricing, it appears to me that what he’s saying is that ebook prices are going to fluctuate more than Macmillan might prefer, probably because Apple’s deal allows them to bounce prices around, and Macmillan is likely contractually obliged to Amazon and other retailers to allow them to match prices with whichever retailer is offering the lowest price. It also appears he’s annoyed with the Justice Department about this. As he notes, there is some irony here.
From my point of view this has the potential to be annoying but on a day to day basis, meh, unless Apple decides to tube prices for the entire publishing industry, and I don’t really see them wanting to do that. Given Amazon’s still-dominant position in ebooks, they would be doing Amazon’s work for them.
2. With regard to subscription services, I’ve offered my thoughts on them recently, and generally speaking my opinion on them hasn’t changed. Basically I’m still not entirely convinced that all subscription services offer isn’t another chance for someone else who is not me to a) have a say in the shape of the publishing market, b) take money that might otherwise go to me. It’s adding more of those dreaded middlemen. I’m not sure I need any more middlemen in the mix. I’ll need to be convinced. We’ll see what happens from here.
3. General upshot: Hey, did you know publishing is changing? Always has been, always will be.
(UPDATE: The Toast and The Butter are indeed revamping their contracts; details at the bottom of the original entry.)
Writer Beware has posted a heads up for writers with regard to Web sites The Toast and The Butter, and the rights they are asking from contributors. Specifically, WB reports that contributors to the sites must hand over copyright (and, where applicable, moral rights). The specific freelance contractual clause in question, according to WB (relevant bits bolded by them):
The Contributor hereby acknowledges and agrees that the Work, including any drawings, images, sounds, video recordings, or other data embedded in the work and including adaptations or derivative works based on the Work is the sole and exclusive property of the Toast and the Toast has all rights under existing United States’ copyright law and all reproduction and republication rights. In the event that any portion of the Work is not copyrightable, The Contributor hereby irrevocably assigns any and all ownership of the Work’s intellectual property rights, including but not limited to: patents, trademarks, design rights, database rights, trade secrets, moral rights, and other proprietary rights and ll rights of an equivalent nature anywhere in the world to the Toast. The Contributor further acknowledges and agrees that the rights being granted to the Toast include the right to own and register all copyrights in the Work. The Contributor hereby irrevocably assigns all the above described rights herein to the Toast and agrees to execute such additional documents as may be requested by the Toast to evidence the Toast’s ownership of said rights in the Work. The Contributor further hereby waives any “moral rights” claims she may have with respect to the Work.
WB also notes that this transfer of copyright is not noted in the submission guidelines on the site. I checked, and this seems correct.
What do you get for this transfer of copyright and moral rights? According to Writer Beware:
So, yeah, no.
Note well I have been a huge, huge fan on The Toast and specifically the work of Mallory Ortberg, who is site editor, and who may in fact be one of the funniest humans alive on the planet at the moment. I’m also a very big fan of Roxane Gay, who recently signed on to edit The Toast’s sister site, The Butter. As quality reads online, I love them.
But no matter how much I like and admire Ortberg or Gay, or their writing, the sites’ attempting to grab copyright and every other possible right for $50 is a whole lot of egregious bullshit. Also egregious bullshit: The response of Nick Pavich, publisher of The Toast and The Butter, when questioned about the policy (see the above included image, which notes his response). It’s basically saying the publisher doesn’t actually give a shit about writers, which is not, generally, an excellent way to convince people to write for you, and which makes Ortberg and Gay’s positions more difficult.
I’ll be clear: I would not write for The Toast or The Butter for these terms, no way, no how. I’ve done work for hire (the formal term for work for which one does not retain copyright), but it sure as hell wasn’t for fifty bucks — if a company is requiring me to relinquish all rights and potential for future earning from my work, I better be adequately compensated up front, and fifty bucks doesn’t even come close to matching my definition of “adequately compensated” in that case.
Nor could I suggest other people write for them under those contractual conditions, especially as Mr. Pavich’s response above suggests he’s not especially interested in negotiation on that point. That’s his right, if that’s the case, but I’m not sure why I would want to write for someone who has that little regard for the economic concerns of the folks who populate his site with the stuff people want to read. Contempt isn’t a good look.
The good news here is that this is a relatively simple fix. The Toast and The Butter can easily change the language of their contract to avoid attempting to claim copyright and moral rights (the latter of which, as I understand it, may not actually even be possible for them to take in some jurisdictions), and instead work out a license commensurate to what $50 is actually worth, which (in my not entirely uninformed opinion, having been on online editor) would be first publication, a window of exclusivity and the right to non-exclusive archiving on their site. They could also reserve non-exclusive print rights (or compilations, etc) contingent on additional payment. That seems reasonable to me.
This is also a reminder that writers should always always always check their contracts and also understand them, and the market. Bluntly put: Selling your copyright is not a standard practice, and certainly not for five lousy Hamiltons. So what The Toast and The Butter are doing here is a flat-out rights grab. If you didn’t know it, you know it now. Again: I sure as hell wouldn’t take this deal, and I don’t know why anyone else would want to either.
I hope this gets fixed soon. I like reading The Toast and The Butter. But I would find them more difficult to read, if I don’t believe they treat their writers with respect. Demanding copyrights for next to nothing is not what respect looks like to me.
Update, 1:05pm – Two tweets of interest from The Butter editor Roxane Gay:
Update: 2pm: Nick Pavich apologizes for his tweets on the issue and promises contractual fixes. I’m not really sold on his excuses for how they did the contracts previously, but if they’re fixing them now, all the better.
Update: 2:15pm: More on the changing contracts, from The Toast editor Mallory Ortberg: “[W]e’re changing our contracts to ask only for First North American Rights (so rights revert to the writer after 6 months), as well as online serial rights so that we can retain the work on our sites in perpetuity. We’re also writing into the contract the promise that we will revert rights in the case of a book deal, so that what we’ve always done in practice will be spelled out in writing.”
The only I note I would add to the above is that I would want it to be clearer if the online serial rights were exclusive or non-exclusive; this could be an issue if the publication which bought something for reprint has an online component.
But generally, this is a substantial improvement.
So: I can keep reading The Toast and The Butter! Hooray for me! And also, and rather more importantly, hooray for the writers of the site. And thanks to the Toast/Butter editorial staff for listening and making changes.
I tried to write a piece of some substance today, and it just came out, well, awful.
(Yes, yes. “As opposed to what you usually write, Scalzi? Hur hur hur hur.” Very funny. Shut up.)
I think I’m going to write off the rest of 2014, brain-wise, here on Whatever. The good news is, that means more cat pictures for you! Which is what I know you come here for anyway. This being the case:
Yes, there we go.
(Also, for those wondering about Ghlaghghee, she’s feeling slightly better today. Which is not the same as feeling good. We’re doing the “let’s take this a day at a time” thing from here on out.)
How’s your Tuesday?
So, Ghlaghghee has been feeling under the weather and moving around slowly and peeing in places she normally doesn’t, none of which are good signs, so I took her to the vet today to see what’s up. And what’s up, basically, is that Ghlaghghee has experienced congestive heart failure, and she’s on the downslope of her time here with us.
The vet gave us some medicine to clear up some fluid backup in her lungs, and depending on how that goes, Ghlaghghee could live for a fair amount of time past this point, even a year or two longer. But our vet also noted that this was a “best case scenario” option; realistically she has less time than that. Given how tired and sluggish she’s been recently, I suspect “less time” is likely to be the case.
We’re fine on this end; the nice thing about getting this information from the vet is it gives us a little bit of time to prepare for her to take her leave of us, and to make sure she does so as comfortably as possible. I’m letting you folks know because obviously Ghlaghghee has been a big part of Whatever over the years, and I feel it would be unfair to spring her death on you all suddenly.
So: Be ready, and if you like, think some good thoughts for my cat as she prepares to move on. I would appreciate that.
Some heavy-duty titles in this collection of new books and ARCs that have come to the Scalzi Compound here in Mid-December. Which ones do you like? Share in the comments!
Want to give a signed book of mine but didn’t get it together to participate in the annual “get a personalized book” thing I do? Well, the good news that there are still ways to get signed stuff from me for the holidays. Here’s how to do it:
1. Jay & Mary’s Book Center’s entire stock* of Scalzi novels is now signed, and they have all of my novels as well as the two blog collections (Hate Mail and Mallet). So give them a call (calling is better than e-mail); they’ll be happy to ship to you here in the US.
2. Borderlands Books in San Francisco also has a few signed copies of Lock in available, and I’m pretty sure they’ll also ship here within the US.
3. If you’re outside the US, ThinkGeek has signed copies of Lock In which they will be delighted to ship to many countries. Check with them!
If you’re a bookstore and have signed books of mine, put a note in the comments and I will update.
Aaaaaand this is the last overtly commercial posting (for myself) I think I’ll make this year. Happy holidays!
* I did not sign J&M’s OMW boxed set because it was wrapped in plastic and I didn’t want to tear it open. Because even if I were signing the books inside, it kinda felt like vandalism.
More commonly known as “Coca Cola Life,” which is their reduced-calorie offering, sweetened with cane sugar and stevia. I call it Mirror Universe Coke because the label is green, rather than the more familiar red Coke branding. I’m not a fan; green Coke labels are Just Not Right. Green is for clear sodas and/or Mountain Dew and its various cognates. I was not aware I had a strong feeling about this until now, but apparently I do.
And how is Coca Cola Life? It’s fine. Apparently some people are very sensitive to the stevia aftertaste, but I don’t appear to be one of them, so that didn’t bother me. To me it tastes pretty much like Coke should, and it has a mouthfeel somewhere between regular Coke and Coke Zero. At this point, having drunk Coke Zero for as long as I have, regular Coke feels kind of syrupy, so I’m not a huge fan; Coke Life is rather less so.
That said, I don’t see myself drinking much Coke Life. It’s not any better, taste-wise, than Coke Zero, and Coke Zero has the advantage of having no calories in it, whereas Coke life has 160 calories per 20 oz. bottle. That’s less than regular Coke, but it would still add up pretty quickly for me.
Indeed, I kind of wonder who the market for Coke Life is; I think you’re either fine with regular Coke or you don’t want any calories at all. Coke tried the “reduced calorie” thing before with C2, which didn’t stick around long, in part because Coke Zero came out in the market at roughly the same time. Maybe the cane sugar/stevia mix is supposed to be a draw (C2 was corn syrup and aspartame), but outside of the hipster “Mexican Coke” crowd, I’m not sure anyone will care, and those folks already drink Mexican Coke.
So, yeah: Coke Life is all right, and I wouldn’t have a problem drinking it, but I wonder who it’s really for. I’ll stick with Coke Zero, personally.
Have a lovely Friday, everyone.
Life takes you places you don’t always expect, and it can do it at any age. So Shannon Page found out when she and the late Jay Lake sat down to write Our Lady of the Islands. That knowledge informs the book and the people in it, as Page explains below.
I’m forty-eight years old. I got married in October; I’m going to become a first-time aunt next spring. I just taught myself how to barbecue (canning will come next). I recently started acquiring and editing books for a small press. My own debut novel came out last year, and now Our Lady of the Islands has received some very nice attention from Publishers Weekly and several other reviewers. I even took up swimming a few years ago and am sometimes teased by fellow swimmers to “slow down.”
Such wonderful things! All accomplished in my late forties.
Now, I love coming-of-age books: those powerful stories where a young person overcomes adversity and figures out who they are and what they need to do in the world. But when Jay Lake and I sat down to write Our Lady of the Islands, and he began the brainstorming with “A young woman…”, I interrupted him at once.
“Jay,” I said. “We’re both over forty. Our lives are fascinating, complex, and changing all the time. We’re still interesting—and so are all our friends. Let’s write about someone who’s not sixteen. Or even twenty-six.”
To Jay’s credit, he thought that was a great idea. Thus was born Sian Kattë, a middle-aged businesswoman whose comfortable life is disrupted quite violently, leaving her to sort out…well, who she is and what she needs to do in the world. She suddenly acquires the power of healing by touch—a power she has not asked for and cannot understand, much less control.
Sian initially resists this enormous disruption—who wouldn’t?—but the world won’t leave her be. As her life falls apart around her and she becomes entangled in political and religious intrigue, she eventually realizes that she needs to let go. Answers that worked perfectly well in her twenties and thirties no longer fit her story. Sometimes, things need to break in order to be healed.
Though I wasn’t given any magical powers in the process, I faced much the same challenges back at the beginning of my forties. I had a comfortable home, a longtime marriage, a stable and safe career. And none of it was working, though I was in complete denial about it. By the time Jay and I had that initial conversation, that life had ruptured completely. I’d filed for divorce, moved to another state, and was pouring myself seriously into my writing. Jay’s path, though different in its details, was similar; he called it “taking a left-hand turn when the road goes straight.” He already knew his life might well be cut short by cancer. He didn’t want to waste any of it stuck in old paradigms.
We wrote the novel, passed the manuscript back and forth several times, sent it out to a few first readers…and then, guess what? Our lives were not through changing. Jay and I ended up parting company, and the manuscript sat, trunked, until early last year, when Jak Koke, managing editor of Per Aspera Press, asked me, “What ever happened to that book you wrote with Jay? Can I read it?” A year later, he made us an offer…contingent on some major reworking.
Deep into his final struggle with metastatic colon cancer, Jay was happy to see the book marketed, but made it clear that he would not be able to work on any revisions. So I agreed to take that on, hoping to get the book out in June, for Jay’s birthday. Unfortunately, it needed more work than that tight deadline permitted, so the publication date was pushed back.
Jay entered hospice on May 21, and died on June 1.
Though this version of the novel diverges in some ways from the draft he and I worked on, I think he would like it. His world and our characters remain; the story is still the one we set out to write. I am deeply sad that he wasn’t able to read it. This book quite literally wouldn’t exist without him. But I do hope it does honor to his memory.
A gentle reminder that if you wanted signed/personalized books from me for the holidays, today is the last day to order them, which you can do by following the directions here. I’ll also be signing all of Jay & Mary’s remaining Scalzi stock, so after today, there should still be some signed copies of my work available, it just won’t be personalized and may not arrive before Christmas. Plan accordingly.