Today’s Twitter Tomfoolery

It goes a little something like this.

Never a dull moment with the Scalzis, I’d say.

Sunset, Dog and Cat, 10/6/15

Yes! You get all three! Because you deserve them. Yes you do.

Have a good night, folks. See you all tomorrow.

House For Sale: Come Live in Bucolic Splendor!

My mother-in-law has put her old house up for sale, on account that two-and-half acres of lawn and woods is a little much for her to keep up on her lonesome. So: Looking for a place to live in beautiful, bucolic Darke County, Ohio, home of Annie Oakley (and also, me)? This three bedroom, two bath ranch home on two-and-a-half acres with two-car garage and barn is, honestly, just about perfect. Come buy it and live where you can see the Milky Way at night!

Here’s the official listing for the house. If you’re interested, contact the listing agent, Jeff Apple. He’ll be happy to answer your questions and set a showing.

New Books and ARCs, 10/5/15

I usually post new book/ARCs entries later in the week, but I’m going to be busy later this week, at NYCC and at Nerdcon:Stories, and also I received enough books to do a post today, so: Hey, look! New books and ARCs! If you see anything that interests you, tell us about it in the comments.

In Other News This May Be My Next Author Photo

I believe cornhole is about to replace kickball as the hipster sport of choice, and for once I’m out in front of the trend. Way, way far out. Who will join me on this ragged, hipster edge?

Also, for those of you going “Cornhole? WTF?” here’s an explanation of the sport. And yes, there is actually a national league. That’s where I got the jersey.

35 Years of Tor is unveiling Tor’s new logo today — it looks like the old logo, only, you know, more modernand offering a timeline of highlights from Tor’s now 35-year-long history. I’m delighted to say I show up on the timeline twice, first in 2005, when it’s noted that I and Brandon Sanderson debuted in that year, and again in 2013, when Redshirts won the Hugo award. It’s nice to be considered part of that history.

I’ve remarked on it before, but I’ll do it again now: I like that Tor is my publisher. Part of it has to do with the fact that Tor is Tor, the largest publisher of science fiction in North America and possibly the world (I’d have to check to see what’s up with China these days to be sure about that), and so being published by a company that has the talent and skill and reach of Tor is a nice thing indeed. Tor is also one of the smartest publishers, too — it hasn’t been afraid of the digital world, and it trusts its readers, which is why their ebooks are DRM-free.

Part of it is that nearly all the time I’ve been with Tor, they’ve been willing to back what I did in fiction, even if it didn’t necessarily make great sense on paper. Write a book that starts with a chapter-long fart joke? Go for it! Rewrite a classic of the genre just to see what it’d be like. Cool, let’s see what happens! Take one of the oldest jokes in science fiction — hey, it’s not a great idea to be the dude in a red shirt! — make a whole novel out of it, and tack on three codas at the end, just for kicks? Why the hell not, we’ll run it up the flagpole and see who salutes! And so on.

The leeway I’ve gotten from Tor in what they publish from me is a microcosm of how I think Tor approaches science fiction and fantasy in general, a philosophy of well, let’s try it and see what happens. Tor is no stranger to “old school” science fiction, of course — one need only look as far as the Old Man’s War series for confirmation of that — but I like the fact that they don’t hold to the philosophy that science fiction is only that (or that fantasy should only be one way, for that matter). Science fiction and fantasy by their very definitions should contain multitudes: Multitudes of stories and ideas and perspectives and authors. I look at what Tor publishes and I see a lot of different work, from a lot of different points of view. This is good thing. There’s always room for more, and I like seeing my publisher going toward the direction of more. I hope it continues to be a guiding philosophy.

Mostly, however, I’m glad to be part of Tor because of the people I know there. My editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden, most obviously (and Teresa Nielsen Hayden, font of wisdom that she is), but so many other people as well. To name just a few: Irene Gallo, the company’s art director, who is one of the very best in publishing, period; Alexis Saarela and Patty Garcia in Tor’s PR department, who have to put up with me when I’m on tour; Liz Gorinsky, who even as Patrick’s assistant was always one of the smartest people in the room; and Tom Doherty himself — if anyone can be called a wizard of publishing, it would be he. There are more, many more, than this. I like the people I know at Tor. They make publishing there a generally pleasurable experience.

Is Tor perfect? No, it has its foibles and missteps, and it and some of its people have done dumb things in the past, because people are people and business is business. It hasn’t even always been perfect with me; I’ve had some sharp disagreements with the company in my past, and I’m sure I will have kvetches and complaints in the future. I like Tor and am happy to be published by them, and consider many of the people who work there to be my friends. But I also don’t forget that Tor is also a publishing company, owned by a larger publishing company, owned by an international holding company, with fallable humans comprising those companies all the way up to the top. Their priorities and mine are not always in sync and never will be. If as an author you don’t understand this fundamental disconnect, you’re going to be grievously surprised one day. This is not me saying know your place; it is me saying understand the context.  If you understand the latter, you might be surprised at how far you can get.

Tor and I are going to be in business together for a long time, so I’m glad I like the people and the company, and the general philosophy of the publishing house. I’m invested in Tor’s success, as they are now in mine. I’ll be happy to have that new logo on the spine of my books over the next decade.

Adulthood and What Being a Friend Means Now

The New York Times ran an interesting article today, in which the writer of the piece talked about the difficulty of making friends if one is over the age of 30. The reasons for this vary and can include the fact that one has a family and children to worry about, time pressures, scheduling, and the fact that as one gets older one becomes pickier about the people one chooses to spend time with in any event.

I found the article interesting because while not discounting all of the above, my thirties and forties have been very good years for me in terms of the acquisition friends, both in terms of quantity and of quality of friends. I can say without reservation that a number of the people that I’ve met in the last decade have become some of the most important people in my life, friends that I can’t imagine living my life without now. I don’t disagree with the writer’s general thesis — I do think it is generally harder to make new friends the older one gets — but it does make me wonder what the mechanics of my situation have been that make the last decade different for me than for this particular author.

The answer, think, is relatively simple: I moved into a line of work with a deeply-established social structure. Which is to say that when I became a science fiction author, I plugged into a field where there were lots of conventions and social events, i.e., opportunities to socialize with people who have similar enthusiasms, and where both fans and pros in the genre generally buy into the idea of a community. All things being equal, people are friendly and supportive rather than not.

Additionally, the way that the science fiction community comes together for conventions and similar events works really well for the general impositions that adults have making and maintaining friendships. When fans and pros go to conventions, by and large they are taking a bit of time from their “real” lives to have two or three days of highly concentrated social experiences: Hanging out in hotel bars, staying up late with deep (and not so deep) conversations about work and life, and otherwise focusing on enjoying themselves with others — not worrying (as much) about life, and kids, and other parts of their existence that distract from making a connection with other adults.

There’s also the fact that people in science fiction and fantasy (and also I think in literature generally) are pretty good with the social media thing. While there’s certainly the possibility of downside in blogs/Twitter/Facebook what with complete and utter assholes trying to get your attention, which we don’t need to get into at the moment, the lovely upside to social media is that it makes it easy to stay in contact with friends even when you can’t physically be with them at any particular moment. Snarking with my pals (authors and otherwise) on Twitter or Facebook helps keep the friendship humming along, so you don’t have that start-and-stop feeling that the NYT writer mentions.

(I don’t think that any of this is unique to science fiction and fantasy, mind you. There are other communities that adults can join into and have at least some of the same dynamics in play. This is just the one I lucked into.)

Finally, I think there’s a personal aspect as well. I find it relatively easy to be friendly with people, and consequently, to make friends — and also (this is somewhat important, I think), I don’t fret if I don’t see a friend for months or even years at a stretch. Because, you know, I realize we’re all adults and have lives and kids and such, and that sometimes that’s just the deal. I mean, I can usually tell pretty quickly whether I want to be friends with someone. If I do, then the qualities that make them someone I’d want to be friends with are (generally) not likely to go away. So I don’t worry about seeing them again. When I do, I assume it’ll still be there. And in the meantime, as noted: Twitter and blogs and such.

(And also, occasionally: Email and/or phone and/or other private communication! That’s right! Not everything in the New Age has to be done in public!)

I do think friendship as an adult has to be approached with the understanding that it is different for adults than for people in their twenties or below. If you try to do friendship like you were sixteen years old, then it’s probably going to end up like anything you’d approach as if you were sixteen, i.e., kind of a hot mess. Being sixteen is fine when you’re sixteen. It’s problematic when you’re thirty-six or forty-six. So, be a grown-up about what friendship is and how it’s done in between everything else in your life, and I think you’ll be fine.

I’ve noted before here, a while back, that prior to coming into the world of science fiction, I told Krissy that I was pretty sure I had made all the friends I was ever going to make. It turns out I was entirely wrong, and it turns out that I am very happy about that. I wouldn’t trade the friendships I’ve made in the last decade for anything in the world. They were a surprise for me and I’ve been grateful for them. I continue to be grateful for every new friend I make. I hope to make at least a few more before I’m done.

(Picture above of a group of us at the Hugo afterparty, borrowed from Ramez Naam)

Ohio From Above, 10/4/15

You can see where the fields are being harvested. A nice contrast of brown and green. Three weeks ago, it was mostly green. Three weeks from now, it will be mostly brown. The seasons. They happen.

In other news I am back in Ohio, for the next couple of days. Then it’s off to New York City for ComicCon and then Minneapolis for Nerdcon. Busy times here in Scalziland.

Greetings From Iowa City

It’s very pretty here today.

Reminder if you’re in town that I’ll be doing my event at 4pm at the former “Wedge” space at 136 S. Dubuque (I wrote 135 yesterday – my bad). See you there!

If you’re not in town, I hope you’re having a good day anyway, and, if you are on the east coast, that you haven’t been swept away by rain.

View From a Hotel Window: Iowa City + New Books and ARCs, 10/2/15

First, the view out my hotel window!

Well, it’s not a parking lot. The room itself is perfectly nice, however, so. For those of you in or near Iowa City, my events are tomorrow: I have a reading/Q&A at 4pm at 135 South Dubuque St (the former Wedge space, I am told) and I will have a signing there immediately thereafter). Come on down!

And now, new books and ARCs that have come to the Scalzi Compound this week. Obviously I took the picture before I left. Here’s what we have:

What looks good to you? Tell me in the comments!

I Am On My Way to Iowa City

Because all the cool kids will be at the Iowa City Book Festival. And I’m a cool kid!


(That last all caps sentence was a reference to a recent spasm in science fiction about “cool kids,” which was very silly because people out of high school should not be using high school as a social metaphor on a regular basis, and it gets more embarrassing to use the older you get. A pro tip there.)

(Also, topic for discussion, speaking of high school and cool kids: You know you’re an adult when you watch Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and think to yourself, “You know what? Ferris really is kind of a prick, isn’t he?” Debate in the comments.)

Anyway, Iowa City! I’ll be there soon. If you’re there, I’ll see you there! If you’re not there, well, we’ll have to try to have fun without you. It will be difficult! But we’ll try.

In Which I Rank the Months, Because Why Not

In order from best to worst:

1. October: Halloween. Cool weather. Foliage.

2. May: My birthday. Spring in full bloom. Memorial Day starts summer.

3. December: Come on, it’s the holidays.

4. September: Start of the school year (traditional). Football, if you care.

5. June: Summer’s nice month.

6. November: The middle child of the 4th quarter. Thanksgiving in the US.

7. April: Usually Easter. Usually somewhat green.

8. January: New year, but first half feels like December’s hangover.

9. February: Screw you, Valentine’s Day, don’t tell me how to feel.

10. July: July 4th plus two weeks of errant fireworks.

11. August: Summer’s asshole month.

12. March: Drunks and mud.

Your rankings belong in the comments.

What My Day Was Like

Look at contract.

Email agent about contract.

Look at another contract.

Let electrician in to do work in the basement.

Look at questionnaire accompanying second contract.

Talk to agent on the phone about contract.

Look at email about another thing that will require a contract.

Email other agent about that thing.

Let electrician out because he’s done with his work in the basement.

Look at thing that requires scheduling.

See possible conflict with other thing.

Email overseas editor about thing that requires scheduling.




Schedule this.

Schedule that.

Add a thing to an already-existing schedule.

Think about scheduling some October Big Idea pieces that haven’t already been scheduled because tomorrow is October.

Realize it’s 4:30.

Remember you thought about doing some writing today.

That was my day.

I Had Things I Wanted To Write Here But Got Swamped by Actual Work, So While I Catch Up, Enjoy This Very Important Cover Version of a Very Important 90s Song

You’re gonna love it. 

See, told you.

Who is this guy? He’s this guy.

Weekend Clouds

And it was a good weekend for them. I was concerned that the clouds would prevent us from seeing the lunar eclipse last night, but as it turned out there was a gap in the cloud cover just as the moon was sliding into the shadow of the Earth. So we got to see it in all of its blood moon glory. I didn’t take pictures of that; I assumed everyone else would. I was not disappointed in that expectation.

I spent the weekend largely away from the Internets because I was working on a project and I didn’t want to be distracted. The project was a screenplay, specifically an adaptation of one of my shorter works. I did it primarily for my own benefit; I don’t expect you’ll see this screenplay out in the world, although you never know. Stranger things have happened. In any event I enjoyed myself and learned a few things, too. It’s nice when that happens.

How was your weekend?

Away For the Weekend

Because I’m working on a personal secret project:


No, not just sleep, actually. I do love sleep. But this is something else.

See you all on Monday.

New Books and ARCs, 9/25/15

Last weekend of September starting soon, and to see off the month, here’s this lovely stack of new books and ARCs for your delight. What looks good to you? Tell me in the comments!

John Boehner’s Stepping Down

And honestly, can you blame him? He’s had to ride herd on an increasingly dysfunctional GOP Caucus in the House for four years now, a group that sees actually shutting down the government to get its way as just another political tactic. That’s got to have taken its toll on the man, who I believe at his heart does see government needing to be useful, even if he and I have rather different ideas about what “useful” means in this case. It can’t be fun being Speaker of the House these days. There’s less chaos in a kindergarten, and at least when you’re in charge of a kindergarten, when everyone’s cranky, you can make them take a nap.

So now he’s done, or will be soon — he’s resigning at the end of October as I understand it. I’ve seen people wondering if the Pope, who spoke to Congress yesterday and whose presence in Congress Boehner has apparently worked toward for years (ironic he got his wish with this particular pope, but even so), might have been an influence on what seems like a sudden decision to resign. I don’t suspect directly, no. I don’t think the Bishop of Rome pulled him aside and said, “dude, what are you doing? Get out while you can,” but I think Boehner may  have felt that this particular event was a highlight of his tenure and maybe it was time to go out on a high note, and while he was still young enough (he’s 65) to do something else with his life. I think maybe it crystallized his thinking, as in, why not leave now? It’s a valid question.

I don’t think Boehner’s departure from the Speaker position is going to do the House GOP or the GOP in general any good. I suspect whoever replaces him will be to Boehner’s right and more willing to use the House as a bludgeoning tool to get their way, which will be an interesting dynamic coming into an election year, and I use “interesting” in all its connotations. Right now the House GOP is on the verge of shutting down the government over Planned Parenthood; even if they dodge this particular bullet it will likely be by a stop gap measure that means there will likely be another possible government shutdown a few months down the line. The optics of shutting down the government are never good, and it’s better-than-even odds that the next House speaker won’t have the wit to recognize this. We’ll see.

I live in Boehner’s district and I’ll be very interested to see who replaces him, both short- and long-term. Boehner’s been the representative here since 1991 and he’s never gotten less than 61% of the vote (his first election), and there hasn’t been a Democrat in the OH-8 seat since the Depression. This seat is so safe the Democrats didn’t even run someone against him in 2012. Everyone including me assumed that he’d be in that seat until he was rolled out on a gurney. That being the case, I don’t think anyone’s been lurking in the wings. I mean, I’m sure someone is, in some way; I just don’t have the slightest idea who it might be. In one sense it doesn’t matter, since the GOP could run a dead raccoon in this district and it would still get 60% of the vote. But in another sense, well. Boehner was actually a good fit for OH-8, politically: rock-ribbed Republican rather than unhinged reactionary. I’m mildly worried whoever comes in will be more of the latter than the former.

People have jokingly suggested that now would be a fine time for me to enter public service; my response is thanks, no. I have no ambition to be a US Representative, for many reasons, among them that I would have less time for writing and also because while franking privileges are a compelling perk, overall the pay/perks package is not as good as what I get now. Also, the idea that what I would actually be doing with most of my time is begging for money from people who want me to vote their way, i.e., institutionalized bribe-seeking, depresses the shit out of me. I’m not a fan of the job as it functions today, basically; it seems very far away from what it’s supposed to be, which would be me acting as an actual representative of the people who live in the district.

But even if I were interested in the job, I’m unelectable in OH-8. I’m not a Democrat, so I don’t have that strike against me (I’m registered independent), but I am generally what passes for liberal in the United States. OH-8 is religious and conservative; an agnostic pro-choice dude who believes the rich aren’t being taxed enough is gonna be a hard sell. I’m not going to bother to make it. I have other things to do, and I like those other things I have to do. So, sorry, folks: Not running. Try to contain your disappointment.

As for Boehner, I hope that he does something other than become just another lobbyist. He and I don’t have a lot in common politically, but he generally seems to be a decent human being who means well and tried to do what he saw as best for his district, his nation and Congress. He’s still young enough to do something more with that impulse. I’d like to see him to do that.

Look What Facebook Has Done To Us, Starring Me and Sara Benincasa

So Facebook went down briefly earlier today, and naturally I had to make a joke about it.

A few minutes later Sara Benincasa posted a suspiciously similar tweet:

And, then, as they say, it was on:

Let’s hope GMail stays up. For all our sakes. But especially Mr. Fluffkins’.

(PS: Sara has a new novel coming out in November. I hear it’s pretty good. Maybe you should pre-order it or something.)

eBook Sales and Author Incomes and All That Jazz

People are pointing me to this article in the New York Times about eBooks sales slipping and print sales stabilizing, and are wondering what I think of it. Well:

To begin, I think it’s lovely that print sales and book stores are doing well; it was touch and go there for a while. I’m also not entirely surprised to find that many younger readers — the “digital natives” — like and often prefer physical books. That’s certainly been the case with my daughter (who now, as it happens, works at the local bookstore). She’s sucked into her phone as much as any person her age, or indeed, as much as most people alive, it seems. And yet, when she reads books, and she reads a lot of them, print is her preferred medium, and was even before the bookstore.

With that said, it’s worth noting this bit in the article:

It is also possible that a growing number of people are still buying and reading e-books, just not from traditional publishers. The declining e-book sales reported by publishers do not account for the millions of readers who have migrated to cheap and plentiful self-published e-books, which often cost less than a dollar.

Indeed, a couple of days before this particular article, my Twitter feed was alive with retweets of data showing that publishers’ share of Amazon ebooks sales had decreased while indie sales had increased; since the data had come from a source that is unabashedly pro-indie (and less-than-subtly in my opinion anti-publishing), it also came with rhetoric implying that publishers were doomed, doomed, and so on.

So a couple of things here. First, if we are talking overall book sales, I do think we’re missing a lot if we’re not bringing indie sales into the discussion. There’s a hell of a lot going on there and it’s one of the most exciting places in publishing right now, “exciting” being used in many senses of the term. But no matter how you slice it, if you’re lightly sliding over its existence, you’re not accurately describing the current publishing market.

But, second, I don’t think declining eBook sales from publishers means they’re doomed, doomed, either. This is in part because (and this seems to be a point of some confusion) there’s more to publishing than maximizing eBook sales numbers in the short term. Publishers, for example, might decide that it’s in their long-term interest to stabilize and even grow the print market, and price both their eBooks and print books in a manner that advantages the latter over the former in the short term.

Why would they do that? For a number of reasons, including the fact that Amazon is still 65% of the eBook market in the US, and publishers, as business entities, are appropriately wary of a retailer which a) clearly has monopsonist ambitions and tendencies, b) has been happy to play hardball with publishers to get its way. Investing time in strengthening alternate retail paths makes sense in that case, especially if, as the article suggests, consumers are happy to receive the book in different formats for an advantageous price. If people fundamentally don’t care if they read something in print or electronic format, as long as they get a price they like, that leaves publishers a lot of room to maneuver.

Which is not to say I think publishers are blind to the potential advantages of the digital space. Note well that publishers have not been idle addressing the digital-only market; numerous publishers now have digital-only (or “digital-first” with publish-on-demand print option) imprints, and several, including Tor, my primary fiction publisher, have started imprints devoted specifically to novellas, a format that is now emerging from a long commercial slumber thanks to digital formats. I think it’s entirely possible that publishers have as their long-term strategy imprints and initiatives that primarily address particular media, with some imprints, books and authors primarily digital-facing and some primarily print-facing, depending on where their data tells them money is to be made with each book/author/imprint/whatever.

The short version of all of the above is: I’m sure publishers are happy about print doing well, and I would be mildly surprised if publishers are too deeply concerned with the short-term dip in digital sales, especially if they are investing in positioning themselves for the long-term. Again I remind everyone that many if not most of these publishers have been around decades and have seen changes in the market as significant as the one we’re going through today. They’re tenacious bastards, publishing companies are.

While we’re on the subject of publishing and writers, people have asked me what I thought about the Author’s Guild survey that shows author incomes down substantially from what was reported in a 2009 survey, with full-time authors seeing a 30% decrease from $25k to $17.5K, and part-time authors reporting an even steeper drop. Added to that, this NPR piece noting the relatively meager sales of some of the books nominated for this year’s Man Booker prize. Between the both of them, it’s enough to make writers a little gloomy.

My first thought about the latter is to note there is not nor ever has there been a strong correlation between “literary excellence” and strong sales, nor when it comes to awards should there necessarily be. The Man Booker is a juried award, if I remember correctly, so awareness through sales isn’t much of a factor in terms of what gets onto its long and short lists. So, no, it’s not really surprising some of the finalists haven’t sold that much prior to the announcement. They’ll probably sell better now, however.

It’s also not a huge surprise that most books don’t sell that well. That, at least, is a consistent fact through time. Kameron Hurley notes the lifetime sales of the average published and self-published book here, if you want to look. The rise of self/indie publishing is kind of a wash on this, I suspect; it allows you to price a book very cheaply, but it also means the market is swamped and it’s harder to stand out. It doesn’t matter how low you price your book if no one ever sees it out there, etc.

But with respect to writer incomes dropping via the Author’s Guild survey, this is one place where I wish we had better (which is to say more comprehensive and in some way independently verifiable) reporting from indie authors, because I suspect there’s a lot of money not being reported out there, not only in terms of direct indie/self-publishing unit sales, but through other avenues like Kickstarters and Patreons, which I anecdotally see adding a non-trivial amount of income to writers’ bottom lines. I suspect these are avenues that a lot of writers who are used to particular income paths are either not aware of, or exploiting — or perhaps can’t exploit because their established audiences are used to paying in them in particular ways. I’d love to see the figures on who crowdfunds, in terms of age; my suspicion is that it skews younger.

Would this money I suspect is going missing substantially move the needle in terms of overall author incomes? I don’t know. I suspect it might, but it’s possible not as much as some people cheerleading indie/self-publishing would like to admit.

I’ve noted before that I think in general there are three kinds of authors: Dinosaurs, mammals and cockroaches, where the dinosaurs are authors tied to an existing publishing model and are threatened when it is diminished or goes away, mammals are the authors who rise to success with a new publishing model (but who then risk becoming dinosaurs at a later date), and cockroaches are the authors who survive regardless of era, because they adapt to how the market is, rather than how they want it to be. Right now, I think publishing might be top-heavy with dinosaurs, and we’re seeing that reflected in that Author’s Guild survey.

What we’re missing — or at least what I haven’t seen — is reliable data showing that the mammals — indie/self-publishing folks, in this case — are doing any better on average. If these writers are doing significantly better on average, then that would be huge. It’s worth knowing.

Update, 2:52pm: This excellent point on eBook sales from Tor editor Beth Meacham: