In Which I Select a Current GOP Presidential Candidate to Vote For, 2015 Edition

Four years ago this month, I took a look at the field of Republican candidates for the office of President of the United States and ranked them, from the one I would be least likely to vote for to the one I would be most likely to, if it came to that, (i.e., if a series of microstrokes robbed me of all sense and sensibility, because at this stage in the GOP’s evolution that’s the only reason I would vote for a Republican as President).

Now it’s 2015 and it’s time once more to do the same sort of ranking. Note that once again this election cycle I would rather take a refreshing shower of hot lava than to vote the GOP into the presidency, and so you should be aware my selections and rankings come from that point of view. Which is to say: Brace yourselves, this is not going to be pretty.

In order of the least likely (i.e., I’d rather feed my fingers to bears than to vote for this jerk) to the most likely (i.e., I won’t be happy about it but I don’t think he’ll entirely trash the joint in four years, please don’t take that as a challenge), here are my choices:

14. Mike Huckabee: As near as I can tell, what passes for Huckabee’s presidential campaign is in reality a months-long audition for Pat Robertson’s gig on The 700 Club once Robertson finally but clearly reluctantly shuffles off this mortal coil to the Hell that awaits terrible people who think they’re in with God. If so, good luck, Mr. Huckabee! You’ll finally become the smug and awful bigoted fossil you’ve always aspired to be!

13. Rick Santorum: Sadly for Santorum, there’s only room for one smug and awful bigoted fossil at the bottom of the GOP polling charts, and that’s Mike Huckabee, because he’s got seniority. I rank Santorum slightly higher than Huckabee in my preferences, but that’s like ranking “puke on your shoe” slightly higher than “bloody puke on your shoe.” It’s still puke on your shoe.

12. Ted Cruz: You know, I can appreciate Cruz’s painfully obvious sense of manifest destiny when it comes to him and the presidency, and the fact that that every step of his life has been a direct and calculated step to that goal. Good for him! It’s nice to have ambitions. However, it also hasn’t escaped my notice that at every step of the way, the thing that most people apparently have to say about Cruz is “wow, what an asshole.” I can’t help but think that’s kind of a telling fact. Even his fellow GOP senators think he’s a real prick and don’t want anything to do with him.

Leaving aside that everything that comes out of his mouth is at best meretricious claptrap that would shame even Newt Gingrich, and the fact he has no real legislative record to speak of, I think it would be good for his growth as a human being to learn that being a complete douchenozzle at every available opportunity won’t, in fact, get you the highest office in the land. Humility, Mr. Cruz! It’s well past time you tried some.

11. Donald Trump: The GOP establishment would like you to believe Trump was their summer fling, who in September didn’t take the hint that it was over, followed the GOP back home, and now drives by its house every hour to peer through the window, and texts at 4am asking if the GOP wants to go to the local Waffle House just to talk.

But in reality, it’s terribly unfair to Trump to suggest this has not been an entirely consensual affair. Fact is, the GOP has been actively looking for a populist demagogue for years, one it could control with money. The GOP’s problem is that Trump has money — as he’s very happy to tell you, as often as you would like to hear and then again a few dozen more times after that — and he’s apparently perfectly happy to go full fascist, when the GOP knows you never go full fascist, you just hint and wink. But Trump’s looking at his supporters and seeing that they, at least, are ready for him to go full fascist, and Trump didn’t get where he is in American culture by being subtle, now, did he?

And here we are: With a billionaire would-be oligarch who the GOP can’t use its only real lever — cash — to control. And maybe they’ll wash him out in the primaries, and then maybe Trump will run as an independent and take his tribe of hopped-up jingoists with him — or maybe not! Maybe he goes all the way with the GOP. Some summer flings just keep on going, whether they should or not.

10. Ben Carson: Carson’s problem is that running for president isn’t brain surgery — which is to say it involves a whole bunch of things he appears to know absolutely nothing about. While the idea of Chauncey Gardiner, MD, is compelling as a literary character, the idea of Carson’s brain grinding horribly into neutral in the middle of a legitimate crisis fills me with an unholy terror. Trust him with a scalpel? Sure, probably. Trust him with The Button? Oh, let’s not.

9. Carly Fiorina: Well, she’s only the second-worst businessperson in the race, I’ll give her that. But my thought is that when someone promises to run the country like they ran a company whose stock value declined by more than half and also ditched 30,000 workers while they were in charge, I should take them at their word, and run the other way.

8. Rand Paul: Every time I think of Rand Paul, I imagine that on his bedside table is a copy of Atlas Shrugged, the pages of which are stiff and stuck together and smell vaguely of corn chips. Then I shudder for five whole minutes and try to think of something else.

7. Marco Rubio: Rubio is these days apparently emerging as the GOP favorite for the nomination, which undoubtedly pisses Jeb Bush off to no end. Well, okay: Rubio is generically handsome and seems pleasant and is what passes for smart in the GOP these days, and I’m sure he will be perfectly happy to jump through whatever various hoops his handlers require. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.

Thing is every time I hear him talk I get the impression of a fellow who is trying very hard not to let others know he is ever so slightly in over his head and not quite managing it. Hilary Clinton’s gonna gnaw on him in a debate like he’s a chew toy. Can’t we put him back into a cool, humidity-controlled cellar for a couple more election cycles until he’s aged up a bit? No? Well, fine, then, GOP, do what you want, I’m not the boss of you.

6. Chris Christie: Angry dude with a demeanor of a schoolyard bully who may or may not be above pulling shenanigans involving a bridge to annoy people he doesn’t like, and is apparently of the opinion that five-year-old Syrian refugee orphans are a clear and present danger to our country. Bless his heart.

He should not be president; he’d stroke out within the first six months, I’m certain of it. For all that, there is worse in the current field of candidates — much worse, in fact — and this is where we are here in 2015.

5 (tie). Jim Gilmore and George Pataki: Former governors, perfectly competent and utterly colorless and have no chance because “competent and colorless” is not what anyone wants these days. I mean, I would be okay with it, obviously given the rest of the field, which is why these guys are as far up as they are on my list, obviously. But the GOP isn’t going to ask me.

This particular spot, by the way, marks the dividing line between “Things could be worse” and “Check out the Canadian immigration Web site to see if you could get in” on this list for me. I’ll also note that currently none of the remaining candidates on the list are polling above 4% nationally. I am not an actual GOP primary voter, is what I’m saying.

3. Jeb Bush: I feel kind of sorry for Jeb Bush, because for years we’ve been told that he was the “smart” one, and his campaign has just been so flabby and disappointing and tired, and as for Jeb, if this is what passes for smart in the Bush family then we’re all just going to have to admit that our standards for smart when it comes to politicians, or at least Bushes, are too damn low (search your heart. You already knew this to be true).

So why is he so high on my list of GOP candidates? One, please see the rest of this list, which makes the 2012 GOP clown car look like the friggin’ Athenian Agora, and two, because Jeb may be tired and listless and doesn’t actually give any indication of running for any other reason but familial obligation, but he’s also got infrastructure, i.e., two previous presidential administrations worth of resources to pick and choose from to keep the nation going despite him. I mean, shit, even W. couldn’t sink the country, and he put real effort into it. Jeb literally could not be any worse. His people will see to that.

On the other hand, if Bush lets a Cheney within 700 miles of him or his proposed administration I swear to God I will literally shove all my money into a Hillary Clinton SuperPAC. Don’t make me do it, Jeb.

2. Lindsey Graham: Apparently a decent human being, has a record of reasonable bipartisanship and is what passes for a moderate these days, and his current polling in the field is at, like, 1%. Which makes him almost perfect for the likes of me. I suspect he’ll get some nice speaking gigs out of this run. Good for him.

1. John Kasich: He’s cranky and too conservative for my tastes and he’s got a hard-on for defunding Planned Parenthood here in Ohio (not to mention an attempted union-bust which required a citizen initiative to smack back) and he said a genuinely dumbass thing about opening a government office for Judeo-Christian values like he’s never heard of the Establishment Clause before and has shamefully said he doesn’t want Syrian refugees and yet I look around at who is running in the GOP field this year, and Kasich is one of the few I trust not to run the whole country into the ground either through incompetence or ideological rigidity, or both.

Part of it is that at least some of his crankiness is directed at his own party and its current slate of candidates, which appear to strike him as fumbling doofuses. He’s not wrong. Part of it is that he hasn’t been entirely horrible for Ohio, and occasionally signals that there’s an actual working brain inside of that suit. Which sounds like faint praise, and it is, but look: This is 2015 and we’re grading on a very serious curve, here. Kasich is the best we’re getting out of the GOP in this election cycle. So of course he’s polling at 3% nationally and I wouldn’t give him much of a chance in the primaries, just like my 2012 first choice, Jon Huntsman. I’m sorry, John Kasich — by choosing you, I’ve probably doomed your candidacy.

Be that as it may: If I had to vote for one of these folks, he is the one I’d vote for. May God have mercy on him. May God have mercy on us all.

(All photos borrowed from Wikipedia and used via Creative Commons license.)

Not Sure This Counts as the Actual First Snowfall of the Season

But I post this here for archival purposes nevertheless.

I mean, I did see snowflakes in the air last night, and this is snow accumulation, of a sort. But it seems sort of a poor showing to honor with the title of First Snowfall of the Season. So let me ask you: What do you think? Should this count? Tell me in the comments.

Ten Thoughts on the Steam Controller

I bought a Steam controller last week, mostly because I was curious about what it would be like. Scattered impressions follow.

1. I actually like it as a controller, and found it pretty intuitive, but there is a very large caveat here in that I’ve primarily been a PC video game player for the last 20 years or so, so I don’t have any real ingrained habits regarding console controls, particularly XBox or Playstation controllers, which the Steam controller most resembles physically. I don’t have to unlearn any standard controller schemes, basically, in order to learn how to use this one. I suspect this makes me like this controller more than committed console players might.

2. I also like that this is immensely mappable to keyboard/mouse controls, which is indeed the thing that attracted me to it. You can go into the Steam app and just fiddle until you turn blue, if such is your joy (or even better, wait until some 14-year-old nerd does it for your favorite particular game and uploads the controller scheme for you to use).

3. That said, I immediately ran into a situation where the mapping failed: I tried to map keyboard controls for Descent and Descent II onto the controller and the game simply wouldn’t respond to the controller mapping at all. Now, I was trying this on games that are a couple of decades old, that also have to be opened in emulation, so I’m not sure this is a fair test of the controller. On the other hand, waaaaah, I wanted to play Descent. I’ll fiddle some more with it.

4. The haptic response on the right pad? Really does feel like you’re running your fingers along a trackball. It’s pretty wild.

5. I also mapped the controller to keyboard/mouse controls for Unreal Tournament 2004, and that worked pretty well actually. The right-pad-as-mouse was immediately intuitive, and the rest of it was easy to use. I did terribly, on account that I’m not used to using a handheld controller, but after a few minutes I was picking off bots, and I suspect if I devoted a little time to using the controller, I’d strafing and murdering like I usually do in relatively rapid order.

6. Which is to say that unlike Xbox/PS controllers, I don’t feel like I’m being unduly penalized on precision with the Steam Controller, which, as I mostly like playing FPS and similar games, is kind of a huge thing (and why I’ve generally stuck with PC gaming to begin with). The Steam controller is the first controller I could actually see using on a regular basis…

7.if I wasn’t already playing games on my computer, in front of a keyboard and a mouse, which is what I do. Which is my problem: the Steam controller is meant for the people who want to play PC games on their TV in their living room — preferably, Valve hopes, on a Steam game machine — and that’s something I don’t really have any interest in doing. One, my game computer is my work computer, in my office, and I’m not going to drag it downstairs. Two, the keyboard/mouse scheme is already something that works for me, so I’m not going to replace it with something else.

8. All of which is to say that the Steam controller is a controller that actually works pretty well for me, and I like it, and there’s little chance I’m going to use it on a regular basis. Because it’s not designed for me, in terms of the games I play and how I play them, and where. Which I suspect is the controller’s real issue: It’s a solution in search of a problem. I mean, I kind of feel the people who play PC games get they’re playing them in front of a PC, with a keyboard/mouse set-up, and I also think the sort of nerd who wants to play PC games on their TV isn’t going to be fussy about using a keyboard and mouse in the living room. I’m also not entirely convinced people generally are going to migrate PCs into their living rooms when consoles offer a very good gaming solution for, uh, generally less money (plus locking down the hardware so game compatibility is not a moving target).

9. But I can see circumstances where I would use a Steam controller even with those caveats: side-scrolling, fighting, arcade and driving games, for example, I can see playing better with the Steam controller than with keyboard/mouse. I don’t usually play those games on PC, but it might be a chicken and egg thing, i.e., I don’t play them because I play on the PC and a keyboard/mouse is not a great configuration for that. I’ll have to buy some and see what I think. Also, I suspect the Steam controller might have specialized uses: See this article, in which the Steam controller lets disabled fellow play Skyrim one-handed.

10. So am I happy with my purchase? I am, even as I wonder whether the controller actually is for me. I think the Steam controller does what it sets out to do, but I don’t know whether I am the person for what it is doing. I’m not inclined to ding it for that. Again: I like it. Now I just have to figure out if I’m ever going to use it.

Announcement: The Kittens Have Official Names

Thing One and Thing Two are now officially:

Sugar (Thing One) and Spice (Thing Two).

Please update your files appropriately.

For those of you about to say “but I like calling them Thing One and Thing Two!” look, I have no control what you do inside your head. Keep calling them that if you like. They will not mind.

Likewise, as a duo, feel free to call them S&S, The Things, or whatever you like. We here at the Scalzi Compound have taken to calling them The Scamperbeasts, or more completely, The Vicious Scamperbeasts of Ohio, or if you wish to be precise, you may use their Linnean classification Scamperbestia ohioensis. 

Thank you for your attention. That will be all.

Frightened, Ignorant and Cowardly is No Way to Go Through Life, Son

So, this week.

Seriously, I don’t think the bedwetting about Muslims has been this bad in a very long time, which is saying something, and the panic on Syrian refugees is particularly ridiculous. Here’s a nice, juicy quote from a just released essay on the subject:

Of the 859,629 refugees admitted from 2001 onwards, only three have been convicted of planning terrorist attacks on targets outside of the United States and none was successfully carried out.  That is one terrorism-planning conviction for a refugee for every 286,543 of them who have been admitted.  To put that in perspective, about 1 in every 22,541 Americans committed murder in 2014.  The terrorist threat from Syrian refugees in the United States is hyperbolically over-exaggerated and we have very little to fear from them because the refugee vetting system is so thorough…

The security threat posed by refugees in the United States is insignificant.  Halting America’s processing of refugees due to a terrorist attack in another country that may have had one asylum-seeker as a co-plotter would be an extremely expensive overreaction to very minor threat.

What horrifyingly liberal commie soviet came up with this load of codswallop? The Cato Institute, the libertarian think tank co-founded by Charles Koch, i.e., the fellow who with his brother is currently trying to buy the entire right side of the political spectrum for his own personal ends. When the Cato Institute is telling you to maybe take down the pearl-clutching over the Syrian refugees a notch or two, it’s an indication that you’ve lost all perspective.

It’s been particularly embarrassing how the mostly-but-not-exclusively (and thankfully not all-encompassing) GOP/conservative politician freakout about the Syrian refugees points out that, why, hello, bigotry really is a thing, still. From small-town mayors declaring that FDR had it right when he put all those US citizens of Japanese descent into camps to presidential candidates alluding that might not actually be a bad idea to make special IDs exclusively for Muslims here in the US, to the House of Representatives passing a bill to piss on the Syrian refugees, it’s been a banner week for bigotry here in the US, enough so that the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum took the extraordinary step of issuing a statement of concern with reference to the Syrian refugees. And as many have noted, there is irony in the freakout about Syrian refugees coming into a season which celebrates a notable middle eastern family who famously were refugees at one point in their history, according to some tales.

But as this asshole politician said this week, “Mary and Jesus didn’t have suicide bomb vests strapped on them, and these folks do.” Well, no, they don’t. Leaving aside that the perpetrators on the attacks in Paris all appeared to live in Europe to begin with, the actual process for placing refugees in new countries is so long and arduous and so selective, with just 1% of applicants being placed, that (as the Cato Institute astutely notes) there’s a vanishingly small chance that someone with ill intent will make it through the process at all — and an even smaller chance that they would be assigned to the US when all the vetting is done. To worry about terrorists in the refugee pool is, flatly, stupid — no terrorist organization is going to pour resources into an avenue with such a small chance of success, especially when it’s easier to apply for a friggin’ visa and get on a plane (they can buy their guns when they get here, don’t you know). The reasons why so many people are voiding their bowels about it are simple: Ignorance, racism, xenophobia and bigotry.

“But people are scared!” Okay, and? Being scared may be the excuse for abandoning all sense and reason in the moment one is actively under attack; it’s not even close to a reasonable excuse for, thousands of miles away from an attack and with no immediate threat on the horizon, vilifying innocent co-religionists of the attackers and plotting to slam the door on refugees running from the very people who claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks. Taking the Paris attacks out on Syrian refugees is security theater — it doesn’t make us safer, it’ll just make the most ignorant among us feel safer. It’s the TSA of solutions to the Daesh/ISIS problem.

This has been a bad week for the United States, folks. France was directly attacked by terrorists and its response was to promise to house 30,000 Syrian refugees; we weren’t and one branch of our government fell over itself to put the brakes on accepting a third of that number. France is defying the very organization that attacked it while we, on the other hand, are doing exactly what that organization hoped we would do. We’re being the cowardly bigots they hoped we would be, and as loudly as possible.

So congratulations, America. We’ve successfully wrested the title of “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” from France. Enjoy it.

An Announcement Regarding Award Consideration for 2015 Work of Mine

So, yesterday, I kinda sort of hinted that maybe people voting in the Goodreads Choice Awards should vote for other books than mine.

Today, let me make it unhinty: The Goodreads Choice Awards? In the category of Science Fiction? Pick another book, please (you can do that even if you’ve voted for me; Goodreads lets you clear your vote and try again).

Likewise: Hey, any award you’re thinking of nominating work I put out in 2015 for? Don’t, please. I’ve decided I’d like to sit out the year, awards-wise.

Not because I don’t think my work doesn’t deserve consideration this year. It does. The End of All Things contains some of the best science fiction I’ve ever written (critics agree!). I’m very proud of that book. It’s totally worth award consideration (see: Goodreads Choice Award finalist). I’m likewise very proud of other things I’ve written that were published in 2015, including a video game and a graphic novel. I did some really good work this year, if I do say so myself.

But this year, when it comes to awards, I want to take a break and celebrate the excellent work that other people are doing, and who deserve attention for that work. My year’s already been, well, pretty good, hasn’t it. I’ve had more than enough good fortune from 2015 and I don’t feel like I need right now to ask for another helping.

There will be other years for me to be in the awards mix — rumor has it I’ll be writing books for another decade at least. You’ll have plenty of opportunities in the future, if such is your desire and if the work merits consideration, to put me on a ballot. Trust me, I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be around.

But for work that was put out in 2015, please look past me. Find the other writers whose work deserves the spotlight you can put on them with your attention, nomination and vote. Find the works that move your heart and your mind. Find the writers whose work you love and who you feel a nomination can help in their careers and their lives. Look past your usual suspects — including me! — and find someone new to you whose stories and effort you can champion to others. Put those people and works on your ballots. 2015 has been genuinely great year for science fiction and fantasy; it won’t be difficult to find deserving work and people for your consideration.

So, again: If you’re thinking of nominating me for an award for work done in 2015, thank you for your kindness, and for your appreciation of my writing. But don’t. I’m good.

I’m excited to take a year just to be a fan myself, to nominate and then vote for my own favorite works of the year, and to encourage other fans and folks to read widely, think seriously, and to nominate and vote for the work they’ve loved in 2015.

I hope you’ll do the same.

In Which The Doubleclicks Tell You What an Awful Person I Am — In Song!

As you may recall, a couple of months ago I did a fundraiser for Con or Bust, in which you lovely folks raised over $10k to help science fiction and fantasy fans of color go to conventions and conferences in exchange for me recording audio for a satirical eBook that talked about terrible I was, and also me commissioning a song with that same topic.

Well, the audio has been up for some time, and now the final promise I made is fulfilled. I asked my friends The Doubleclicks to write a song about my awfulness, and they were suspiciously willing to fulfill my request. Here is that song. All of it is true.

Cover-300x300Let me also remind you, or possibly make you newly aware, that The Doubleclicks have a brand new album out called President Snakes, which you can purchase right this very second (hint, hint) by way of Bandcamp, iTunes, Amazon and CDBaby. Also, they’re touring the west coast of the US in December. You should go see them and request this song and hold up lighters and/or cell phones when they sing it, because that would be awesome.

How You Should Vote for the Final Round of the 2015 Goodreads Choice Awards, SF Category

Oh, look, The End of All Things has made the final round of the Goodreads Choice Awards this year, along with nine other books in the science fiction category. How excellent, and thank you to everyone who has voted so far. Now the question becomes: What should you vote for in this final round?

Well, let me tell you.

You should vote for Ancillary Mercy because Ann Leckie has stuck the dismount on what is one of the defining science fiction series of the century so far.

You should vote for Armada because in your heart you always wanted to be recruited for the space forces, fighting aliens.

You should vote for The Fold because teleportation is cool, and what Peter Clines does with it here is even cooler.

You should vote for Golden Son because class struggle! And also because some people think this second book in the Red Rising series is even better than the first.

You should vote for The Heart Goes Last because Margaret Atwood takes the metaphor of work as a prison and punts it into the stratosphere, as she would.

You should vote for Seveneves because Neal Stephenson ends the world and then seems to enjoy the hell out of himself trying in the most difficult way possible to bring it back.

You should vote for Star Wars: Aftermath because it’s one of the best Star Wars novels yet, and it annoys whiny bigots as well, which is its own special reward.

You should vote for The Water Knife because if we’re not careful, this is where we’re going to be living in a couple of decades (or sooner).

You should vote for Welcome to Night Vale because it’s a mash-up of Our Town and The Twilight Zone, and if you can’t love that, you may be dead inside. The bad kind of dead, not like… well.

So, yes. That’s how you should vote for the Goodreads Choice Awards in the science fiction category this year. I hope that helps!

I Was Busy Today With the Dentist and the Accountant, So Here is a Kitten Picture Instead of Me Blathering

Thing One is coming to end you. Better watch out.

And before you ask: I cracked a tooth and had to get it repaired (everything’s all right), and I had to sit down with my accountant and figure out what to do with my taxes this year because ZOMG TAXES THIS YEAR (everything’s all right there, too, if a little breathtaking).

So: I’m fine. We’re fine. Here’s a kitten. Enjoy.

Kittens are Kittening

Watch! As they battle each other, and the DREADED HAND OF JUDGMENT:

In other news, I changed the kitty litter to another brand, and they started pooping and peeing outside of the box. Changed it back, Thing One used the litter box within ten seconds of me laying down the litter. I’m not training them, they are training me.

How is your Sunday?


I have many thoughts on the Paris attacks but the one I want to point out today is this: there are 1.2 billion Muslims in the world and what most of them want to do is live their lives, love their family, friends and neighbors, and be at peace with themselves, their world and their God.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacks; one of ISIS’ goals is to spread distrust of Muslims for its own ends, to end the “grayzone,” as it calls it:

Which is to say that every time someone lumps all Muslims into the ISIS camp, the stupid, murderous, rapist, culture-destroying ISIS camp, they’re doing ISIS’ work for them. ISIS is relying on the rest of us to see the world as they do, and as they want us to.

If you believe that every Muslim supports ISIS and groups like it, then you should also believe that all Christians support the Ku Klux Klan and the Westboro Baptist Church and Scott Lively. You should believe that all white people support actions like the Charleston Shooting. You should believe every man celebrates the anniversary of the École Polytechnique Massacre. And so on, across any group or affiliation you might be able to name.

If you don’t believe all of these things, but somehow manage to believe that more than a billion people are somehow sympathetic to, and responsible for the actions of, a cadre of murderous fundamentalists (“fundamentalist” in this case, as in so many cases with that term, not accurately representing the fundamentals of the religion it claims to represent), then the problem is you, not 1.2 billion Muslims. If you demand they answer and apologize for ISIS, I will be more than happy to go down a list of all the things you can be identified as and demand you apologize and answer for the actions of the worst of that segment of society. I suspect you will get tired of this very quickly.

The Muslims I know, and I know more than just a few, are as horrified as anyone by ISIS and what they represent. The Muslims I know are good people, and I am proud if and when they consider me to be their friend. I don’t experience what they feel when events like this happen, which give bigots here, where we live, an excuse to hate and demonize them. But I can see the impact from the outside. It’s stupid what is done to them, and it’s wrong.

So: Don’t. Don’t do what ISIS wants you to do. Don’t be who ISIS wants you to be, and to be to Muslims. Be smarter than they want you to be. All it takes is for you to imagine the average Muslim to be like you, than to be like ISIS. If you can do that, you make a better world, and a more difficult one for groups like ISIS to exist in.

If you can’t do that, consider that perhaps you are more like ISIS than the average Muslim.

New Books and ARCs, 11/13/15

As we head into another weekend, it’s time for another stack of new books and ARCs that have come to the Scalzi Compound. What looks good to you in this collection? Tell me in the comments!

FitBit Update

I think it’s helping? I mean, I’ve had it for three weeks and I’ve lost about three pounds, which is in line with my goal to lose a pound a week, so it’s at least not hurting. And now I know how many steps I take a day, on average (about 6,200), so I guess I have that going for me too. What’s it’s mostly done, though, is make me annoyed when I do a lot of walking and I don’t have the FitBit on me. Oh, great, I think. All that moving around for nothing. I’m not sure that was the intent. And yet.

Anyway: Hi, I’m watching my weight and exercising! Getting older sucks.

On the Sidelines of an Uproar

E-mail the other day which said:

You’ve been quiet on the whole World Fantasy Award uproar. I’m surprised because it seems like your kind of thing.

(For those who need context on the World Fantasy Award uproar, here’s a good basic summation.)

Not sure what to make of this comment. I haven’t been quiet about it, actually; I’ve noted some thoughts on the matter on Twitter of the last several days. Also, I’m not entirely sure what’s meant by this being “my kind of thing.” Is it my kind of thing because I’m occasionally up for genre awards? Or my kind of thing because it’s about social issues? Or both?

I suppose it is true that I’ve been less noisy about it than other folks have, which comes down to a number of reasons, one of them being that I’ve been busy with my own things recently (see this to see what’s been occupying my time the last several days), and another being, well, again, I don’t have to elbow my way to the front of every single controversy on science fiction and fantasy, now, do I? I understand and support the idea that it’s not a great idea to have an unrepentant racist be the literal face of one of the most prestigious awards in the genre, but other people, like Daniel Jose Older, Nnedi Okorafor and Sofia Samatar among others, are rather more invested and have been more cogent in their discussions of it than I am or would have been. I don’t see what utility there would have been in my shoehorning myself into that discussion.

Also, there’s this: I don’t generally write fantasy (my entire fantasy output consists at this point of two novellas and a parody short story). I’ve been to exactly one World Fantasy Convention, and that because it was a convenient place for SFWA to hold a business meeting when the Worldcon was that year on another continent. I’ve never been nominated for a World Fantasy Award, nor do I find such a thing likely.

As for the award itself, I actually like the bust visually, but that’s almost solely because I’m a fan of the artist Gahan Wilson, and of his style. The bust is a grotesque, as a noun, and grotesque, as an adjective. My admiration for the artist’s work does not distract from my opinion that HP Lovecraft was always a curious selection for the award. While his work is obviously fantastical, it’s so much more typically horror in my mind that having him as an icon of fantasy as a whole never made much sense to me (by this same argument, I’m not 100% convinced having Lovecraft replaced by Octavia Butler, as has been suggested, makes sense, either, as she is in my mind strongly associated with science fiction rather than fantasy). With that said, I’ve never had any particular strong feeling for or against the statue, probably because it never especially applied to me as someone who doesn’t actively participate in the fantasy side of the genre. I was neutral on it until others pointed out problems with Lovecraft, unrepentant racist, as an icon for the field.

So, again: While I don’t think I’ve been silent about my support for the folks making the argument about changing the award statue, I’m not sure why I should have needed to try to insert myself into the front ranks of this particular argument, either. I’m happy to have been in the crowd for this one, lending support rather than leading the charge.

The aftermath noise from certain quarters to the change has been, well, predictable, hasn’t it, with the telltale furious ejaculations of “political correctness!” and “social justice warriors!” marking the words of people who can’t or won’t employ actual thought to the matter. I’m always embarrassed for the people who use these phrases thinking they’re cutting, when in fact what they signal to the rest of the world is that the utterer is dog-whistling to a low-wattage, bigoted rabble in lieu of making an actual argument.

It’s nonsense in any event. There is no real danger of Lovecraft being removed from the fantasy/horror canon, although maybe now there will be more discussion of how his personal bigotry shaped his tales. Along this line, nor are the arguments of Lovecraft being “of his time” particularly persuasive when it’s obvious and evident that even in his time, he was noxiously bigoted, and in any event, it’s not his time anymore. One of the privileges of being of our time (whichever time that is) is to decide who and what should represent a genre, and in this case a genre that is increasingly diverse and full of people that it seems likely Lovecraft himself would have been horrified to see clutching his likeness as a prize.

Which is to say that I expect of all the people who would vote to have Lovecraft’s likeness removed from the World Fantasy Award, he himself would be among the first. For his own bigoted reasons, mind you. But the end result would be the same.

What Ten Years Looks Like

Tor Books and I agreed to our deal in May, but for various reasons (including the fact that the deal was for thirteen books, to be delivered over the course of ten years), the actual, finalized contracts didn’t get to me until this very morning. Here they are, laid out. You’re looking at ten years of my life, here — or at least the literary aspect of it, through 2026. I will be 57 years old when the last of these books is released into the world. Honestly, that just seems unfathomable at the moment.

I have a lot of deep thoughts about all of this, but I’m going to wait a bit until these contracts — which I signed! — are countersigned over at Tor. Until then, look: A decade, in contract form.

Size Matters Not

Larry Correia has just come back from a book tour, and it appears he generally had a good time and had good crowds along the way, which is nice. Near the end of the post he wrote about the tour he notes that after his Portland stop, some Twitter commenter gave him stick about the size of his crowd (which eventually topped up at over 40 fans) and how real successful authors pull larger crowds, and so on. Larry responded as Larry does, and that’s fine for Larry, but as a general topic of interest, let me add a few additional cents.

First, an anecdote. Back in 2006, I was at the Worldcon in Anaheim and I gave a reading, and I pulled in, oh, about, 40 people to the room. A little earlier than that, I walked past a room where George RR Martin was doing a reading, and that room had maybe ten people in it, listening to George read. From these numbers, can we assume that in 2006, I was four times as popular as George?

Answer: No, don’t be stupid. The reason I had more people than George at my reading is that at the 2006 Worldcon, the rooms where the authors were holding their readings were really difficult to find — in a hotel, on a somewhat inaccessible floor, away from the main convention — and if you didn’t tell people how to get to the rooms, they may not have found them. I had a signing just before my reading and I told every single person in my signing line how to find my reading. That’s why I had as many people as I did at my reading. I don’t assume George did the same thing, so I suspect that’s why he had fewer (seriously, those rooms were hard to find. If I hadn’t have scouted the room before my reading, I’m not sure I would have found my way to my own reading).

Moral to this anecdote: It’s not a good idea to make assumptions of a writer’s popularity from a sample size of a single reading.

Indeed, speaking from some experience, it’s also not a great idea to make assumptions of a writer’s popularity — as it is expressed by overall number of books sold — by how many people show up, on average, for their book events, no matter how many of them you string together. Why? Well, because it all depends on the writer, and the book. Some writers are good at book events and pull in a crowd disproportionately large to number of books they sell in general; some aren’t and do the opposite. Sometimes the book subject doesn’t lend itself to people showing up in a bookstore. Sometimes most of the readers of a book might be in a demographic that doesn’t correlate to going out to events.

In terms of single events, sometimes your event is counterscheduled against something huge going on in town. Sometimes it’s scheduled in the middle of weather that is likely to kill people if they go out in it. Sometimes the bookstore, who is supposed to promote the event, did a bad job of it (although in my experience this is rare; bookstores are usually on it). Sometimes it’s at an odd time of day where people can’t get away to a event. Sometimes you do everything right, and people just don’t show up anyway. There are lots of reasons why people don’t go to book events, in other words, even if the books sell just fine. These reasons often have nothing to do with the author themselves.

I’ve been actively touring novels since 2007, when Tor put me on tour for The Last Colony. Since that time, across several tours, I’d say my largest tour event had several hundred people at it, and my smallest event had… three. Yes, three. I was at the time a New York Times best selling, award-winning author, and yet three people showed up to a tour event of mine. And they were lovely people! And we had a fine time of it, the three of them and I. But still: Three.

Because sometimes that happens. And it happens to every writer. Ask nearly any writer who has done an event, and they will tell you a tale of at least one of their events populated by crickets and nothing else. Yes, even the best sellers. And here’s the thing about that: Even with the best sellers, it’s an event often in the not-too-recent past. Every time you do an event, you roll the dice. Sometimes you win and get a lot of people showing up. Sometimes you lose and you spend an awkward hour talking to the embarrassed bookstore staff. Either way, you deal with it, and then it’s off to the next one.

Also, tangentially: the dude on Twitter trying to plink one off of Larry because of the size of his event crowd? Kind of a dick. For all the reasons noted above, but also because the size of the audience has nothing to do with the quality of the event. Larry and I have our various differences, but I’ve seen enough of him up close to know the dude has a work ethic and that he values his fans. If he had seven or eight or forty or however many people in attendance, I’m pretty sure he did his best to make them feel like they made the right choice by showing up. I have no doubt they had a good time.

And then those seven or eight or forty or however many people will go home feeling valued by Larry, and they’ll keep buying his books and keep recommending them to friends and others. Because that’s the point and that’s how it’s done. The value of doing a book event is not only about who is in the crowd that day. It’s the knock-on effect from there — building relationships with fans and booksellers, and benefiting when they talk you up to friends and customers and so on. I know it, publishers know it, booksellers know it. I’d be very surprised if Larry doesn’t know it. We all know it.

Which is why I’m fairly certain that however many people showed up to Larry’s event, he entertained them and they had a ball. Just like I do my best to give people who show up to my events a good time, no matter the number. Just like pretty much any writer does.

That’s what makes a successful author event: What the author puts into it and what people who showed up came away with. Not the gross number of people who show up.

Self Promotion, on “Dear Veronica”

My pal Veronica Belmont offers advice on technology and the geek life over at Engadget, and this week she enlisted me to help out with a question about promoting yourself and your new novel online. Want to know what I said? Of course you do. The link is here (I would embed it but embedding doesn’t appear to work. Make the click anyway, it’s worth it).

TEoAT is a Goodreads Choice Awards Semifinalist + Thoughts on Awards in General

First: Hey, The End of All Things made it to the semifinalist round of this years Goodreads Choice Awards in the science fiction category. You can see a picture of the other semi-finalists above, which include a few write-ins from the previous round, which is all to the good. If you’re a Goodreads member, you can vote for the book you like in this category and several others as well. Here’s a direct link to the science fiction category; you can click through to the other categories from there.

Second: Someone asked me if being nominated for things like this made me feel competitive against the other authors in my category, not in the least because the Goodreads people are more than happy to try to get you as an author to engage your readers to vote for you through the various rounds.

In this specific case, the short answer is no, because a) the Goodreads Choice Award is not an award that means a huge amount to me — it’d be nice to win, sure, but any time I’ve been nominated I’ve thought about the award for exactly zero seconds after someone else’s book beat mine, and b) there are a lot of authors in the category I like as people and/or books I’ve enjoyed, and it’s genuinely difficult for me to feel competitive against them. I’d be delighted for almost all of these books/authors to win, excepting only the books I’ve not read by authors I don’t know, and I’d be perfectly happy for them to win, too, because why not? There’s also c) which is: Why be the asshole who has to feel competitive all the time, or feel that you’re owed an award? That’s kind of exhausting, and annoying to others. I’d prefer not to.

In a larger sense: You know, I’ve won my fair share of awards and have also lost rather more than I’ve won. In all cases my experience has been that it’s nice to win but it also doesn’t usually hurt to lose. The worst-case scenario to losing an award is that you are no worse off than you were before, unless you’ve made winning that particular award a cornerstone of your being for some reason or another, which is on you rather than anyone else. You might believe if you win an award, then it will move the needle in how you are perceived or are respected, and you know what? It just might. Then again it might not. Or it might for a limited time, after which you’re in the mix again just like everybody else. Or after you win it you might start acting like a twit, or might start worrying that you always have to top the thing that won the award. In which case the winning the award will become a net negative over time.

I’ve won and lost enough awards to know an award is not The Thing That Changes Everything. An award is fun, an award is nice, an award may even be, at times, significant. But at the end of the day, whether you win or lose, you still go home with yourself, and you don’t change — at least, not because of an award. It’s perfectly fine to want an award (I’ve wanted them from time to time, you can be assured) and it’s perfectly okay to be disappointed if you don’t get one. But ultimately, putting the responsibility for your happiness onto an award, which is, generally speaking, a thing over which you have absolutely no control, is a very fine way to become unhappy. Which will not be on the award, or any of the people who voted for it. It will be on you, whether you want to own that fact or not.

What I suggest is this: Hey, you’ve been nominated for an award? Cool! You’ve made the semi-finalist round? Neat! Made the finalist round? Awesome! You win the award? Whoo-hoo! You lose the award or didn’t get nominated this time around? Oh, well, your life is still probably pretty decent, all things considered. Maybe next time! And so on.

In the meantime, be happy for the success you have and also for the successes others have, which in point of fact do not diminish the opportunities and success you may find. Envy and jealousy and a zero-sum approach to awards is no way to go through life, my friends.

Kitten Update, 11/10/15

The kittens are on this side of the stairs because they both climbed over the gate, evidence that the gate is not so much useful as a gate anymore, even if it has some continued utility as exercise equipment. That, combined with the fact that the last flea combing produced no fleas (aided by a spraying with age-appropriate flea treatment, which will be administered again probably tomorrow), means that I’m officially letting the gate come down and the kittens to roam around the house. They’ve already gotten acclimated to Daisy, who loves them to bits, and it’s time they had a little more contact with Zeus, who so far is less than pleased but need to deal with it. So out into the world (defined as “the house”) they go.

I do find the kittens already surprise me. When we got them, lo that whole week ago, I assumed that Thing Two, who is the larger and in many ways more forward of the kittens, would be the troublemaker of the pair, but it turns out that Thing One is the adventurous one — she’s the one who hopped the gate first, who acclimated to Daisy first, and who goes down the stairs at every available opportunity. Thing Two, on the other hand, is a little more cautious (but only a little) and is more openly affectionate, coming over to me meowing to be picked up and petted and so on. It’s nice they are already challenging assumptions and expectations.

This is likely the last regularly-scheduled kitten update here. Before anyone complains, if you think this means there won’t be additional kitten pictures here, quite obviously you’ve never actually visited this site before. There will be tons, I assure you. Just not every single day.

Er, probably.


How to Get Signed and Personalized Scalzi Books for the Holidays, 2015

It’s that time of the year again, and once again I am teaming up with Jay & Mary’s Book Center, my local independent bookseller, to offer signed and personalized books for gift-giving. It’s a great way to get a unique gift for someone you love (even yourself!) while at the same time supporting a great local business that does a fantastic job in its community (and also currently employs my kid, how cool is that).

So: How do you get signed and personalized books from me this year? It’s simple:

1. Call Jay & Mary’s at their 800 number (800 842 1604) and let them know you’d like to order signed copies of my books. Please call rather than send e-mail; they find it easier to keep track of things that way.

2. Tell them which books you would like (For example, The End of All Things), and what, if any, names you would like the book signed to. If there’s something specific you’d like written in the books let them know but for their sake and mine, please keep it short. Also, if you’re ordering the book as a gift, make sure you’re clear about whose name the book is being signed to. If this is unclear, I will avoid using a specific name.

3. Order any other books you might think you’d like, written by other people, because hey, you’ve already called a bookstore for books, and helping local independent bookstores is a good thing. I won’t sign these, unless for some perverse reason you want me to, in which case, sure, why not.

4. Give them your mailing address and billing information, etc.

5. And that’s it! Shortly thereafter I will go to the store and sign your books for you.

If you want the books shipped for Christmas, the deadline for that is December 10. (That’s a Thursday this year.) That way we can make sure everything ships to you on time. Hey, that’s a month; more than enough time for you to make your selections. After December 10, all Scalzi stock will still be signed and available, but I will likely not be able to personalize, and we can’t 100% guarantee Christmastime delivery.

Ordering early is encouraged — it makes sure we will absolutely be able to order your book and have it to you on time.

Also, this is open to US residents only. Sorry, rest of the world. It’s a cost of shipping thing.

What books are available?

CURRENT HARDCOVER: The End of All ThingsThe Mallet of Loving Correction (The latter is already signed but I will be happy to personalize it). They may also be able to locate hardcover copies of Lock In — go ahead and ask.

CURRENT TRADE PAPERBACK: Redshirts (the 2013 Hugo Award winner!), Twenty-First Century Science Fiction (which features a story of mine), Metatropolis (which I edited and contribute a novella to). There may be hardcovers of these still around if you ask. But each are definitely in trade paperback.

CURRENT MASS MARKET PAPERBACK: Lock InThe Human DivisionFuzzy Nation, Old Man’s War, The Ghost Brigades, The Last Colony, Zoe’s Tale, The Android’s Dream, Agent to the Stars, The New Space Opera 2.

CURRENT NON-FICTION: Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded (essay collection, Hugo winner), Book of the Dumb, Book of the Dumb 2 (both humor books) are all still in print.

AUDIOBOOKS: The End of All Things, Lock InThe Human Division, Redshirts, Fuzzy Nation, The God Engines, Metatropolis and Agent to the Stars are all available on CD and/or MP3 CD, and Jay & Mary’s should be able to special order them for you.

Two things regarding audiobooks: First, if you want these, you should probably call to order these ASAP. Second, and this is important, because the audiobooks come shrinkwrapped, I will have to remove the shrinkwrap in order to sign the cover. You ordering a signed audiobook means you’re okay with me doing that and with Jay & Mary’s shipping it to you out of its shrinkwrap.

If you have any other questions, drop them in the comment thread and I’ll try to answer them!