A Request re: Jeopardy (Update: Found It!)

Hey,

Apparently I’m a question (or answer) on tonight’s episode of Jeopardy. Can some record and screencap the picture for me? I’m at a convention and don’t have the wherewithal to do it myself. You can email me or put it in the comment thread (although if you do, the picture will be held in moderation until I clear it).

Thanks!

Edit: Here it is!

CbDEsVMUYAEasTt

View From a Hotel Window, 2/11/16: Dallas, TX

I’m here in the Lone Star State for ConDFW, where I am the guest of honor along with Seanan McGuire, so if you you’re in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and have a hankerin’ to meet me (or Seanan), this is the time. The convention starts tomorrow. Right now, I’m likely to take a little nap.

A Brief Note to Nebula Award Nominators

So, I was chatting today with Lois McMaster Bujold, as one does, and she mentioned to me that her latest novel, Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, which officially came out last week, was also in the last couple of days judged eligible for the Nebula Awards currently being nominated for, which are for books released in 2015.

Why is it eligible now? Presumably because an eARC version (an electronic version, before all the copy-editing and other cleanup is done) was offered for sale by Baen in 2015, and that’s enough to qualify it for 2015 consideration rather than 2016 consideration.

All well and good, of course, but it’s also the case that there are five days left for nominating for the Nebulas this year, and some Nebula nominators might not know that the book is eligible now, rather than later.

So: Hey! Nebula nominators! Gentlemen Jole and the Red Queen is eligible for your consideration now. If you’ve read it and liked it enough to want to nominate it, this would be the time. And if you were planning to read it with an eye toward nominating, you have until the fifteenth to do that.

(Please note this is informational on my part and not an endorsement of this particular book, for the simple reason that I have not yet read it. But I am looking forward to reading it. What can I say, I’m a Bujold fan.)

The Rest of the Night in New Hampshire

Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr, used under Creative Commons license.

More thoughts on what went down in New Hampshire:

* First, that vaguely squelchy sound you hear in the background is the GOP pooping itself because, in fact, Donald Trump is real, and he is spectacular — or at the very least, he thumped the hell out of the rest of the GOP squad in New Hampshire. He outpolled his nearest competitor John Kasich better than two to one, and beat Iowa winner Ted Cruz three to one. Trump’s gonna come out of New Hampshire like the crowing cock he is, and he’s the favorite to win the next GOP primary in South Carolina (FiveThirtyEight says he’s got a 55% chance of winning there; Marco Rubio, his nearest competitor, is at just 19%) and he’s ahead in the polls in Nevada, too, which comes after South Carolina.

This scares the shit out of the GOP establishment — as well it should — but, as I’ve noted before, the rise of a populist demagogue was exactly what the GOP has been aiming at for years. Yet again, for the people in the back: If your party spends decades undermining the legitimacy of government, and of governance, and if you sublet your messaging to radio talk show hosts and news networks whose bread and butter is making old white people scared and younger white people angry at minorities, and if you’ve pandered to that scared and angry core to continue to undermine government and governance in a distinctly non-virtuous cycle, then a populist demagogue as your party’s presidential candidate is probably inevitable.

The GOP’s misfortune is that it comes in the form of Trump, who doesn’t need its money and doesn’t care about the Republican Party in any real sense, except as a rented mule he can whip when it suits him. Billionaires are supposed to fund, not run.  Trump is vulgar and racist and generally horrible but he’s not stupid, and he understands the moment, and the movement, the GOP has provided him. The GOP establishment gave him a car that runs on vitriol. He’s going to drive it hard until it falls apart under him, and he’s not going to stick around to clean up the exploded mess. Why should he?

In short, the GOP only have themselves to blame. They asked for Trump. They’ve been asking for him for years. And here he is.

* Trump is the GOP’s fault, but the rest of the field is the GOP’s problem. Kasich put nearly all his chips into New Hampshire and got a distant second place finish as a payout, but South Carolina as I understand it is likely to be less friendly territory for a Republican who actually thinks occasionally working with the other side is a thing that might be done, and anyway he doesn’t have many chips left. Bush left New Hampshire in fourth place with a plan to have his ads target Kasich and Rubio. Rubio has a fifth place finish and a reputation as a broken machine. Cruz has a third place finish and appeals to religious conservatives, of whom there are many in South Carolina, but if the GOP establishment fears Trump, it loathes Cruz. Everyone else in the race doesn’t matter at this point.

None of the above seem to be targeting Trump very much; they’re more content to snipe at each other for the silver, which works out great for Trump. But more to the point, Trump is vulgar and racist and generally horrible, but the people who like him really like him. Who really likes Jeb Bush? Or Marco Rubio? Or John Kasich? Nobody likes Cruz, but inasmuch as no one really likes any of the remaining undercard perfomers, this hasn’t hurt him as much as it should. So Cruz keeps at it. They’re like drowning men desperately trying to push themselves up out of the water on each other’s shoulders, while Trump is in a speedboat with a model and champagne, encouraging them to kill each other and float on top of the bodies.

I don’t know what’s going to happen in South Carolina. But it’s going to be a long ten days until then.

* On the Democratic side, you know, I’m not gonna lie, I was convinced that Sanders was going to have a larger blowout than he did. Not that 60% to 38% is anything to complain about, mind you. He did great. I just thought it would be more. I think it’s because my Twitter feed is full of Bernie supporters.

In any event, it was long known that New Hampshire was Sanders territory. I think Clinton’s people didn’t do a particularly good job of framing expectations there. For example, here’s a fun fact: Clinton’s 38.3% loss in New Hampshire this year is less than one percent off from her 39.1% win of the state in 2008. So her support in the state is pretty much the same as it ever was. The differences this year: One fewer candidate to slice up the rest of the voting pie, Sanders’ “hometown” advantage, and the simple fact that people in New Hampshire, at least, were more energized by Sanders than by her.

Sanders should capitalize on his momentum because it gets harder for him from here — the Nevada caucus is a question mark (Clinton’s got a big lead there but the state hasn’t been polled since December) and FiveThirtyEight gives Clinton a 95% chance of winning South Carolina.

There’s also this:

Clinton and Sanders have roughly the same number of pledges delegates at this point, but Clinton has substantially more “superdelegates” (i.e., party bigwigs) supporting her, so she’s far ahead in the delegate count. In fact, thanks to superdelegates, Clinton comes out of New Hampshire with more delegates than Sanders currently has, even though he beat her 60%-38% in the polls.

So, yeah. Sanders absolutely should enjoy the moment. It goes uphill now, and he’s already way behind, and his big victory ironically ended up being a loss, as far as delegates go — which, for the purposes of the Democratic nomination, are the votes that matter.

* Given her structural advantages, do I think Clinton could eventually lose the nomination to Sanders? Well, I think it will be difficult for her to lose it, but then, she’s been a front-runner before and blown it, so I wouldn’t say it’s impossible. 2016 is not 2008, Sanders is not Obama (for a number of reasons), and Clinton, in my opinion, is a savvier politician than she was eight years ago. So I suspect in the end it’s Clinton. But you never know.

One of Clinton’s bigger problems is that people don’t like her, and there are all sorts of reasons for that, many of which are external to her — two decades of conservative revilement, for a start, down to the recent phenomenon of “Bernie Bros,” i.e., ostensibly liberal dudes who still think it’s fine to crap on Clinton for the unforgivable crime of being a politician whilst female. Sexism is still a thing. Sexism isn’t the only reason for people disliking Clinton — she has her faults — but it’s flat out a lie to say it’s not an overlay, just like it’s flat out a lie to argue that racism isn’t part of why Obama has been loathed by many for the last eight years. It does complicate matters.

For all that, if I were a betting sort, I’d still bet on Clinton. But again, from my point of view, whether Clinton or Sanders wins the nomination is immaterial, since both are so vastly superior to anything the GOP has on offer that I’m pulling the lever for whichever of them make it that far.

(But what about Bloomberg? He might enter the race! Sure, and if he does I’ll think about him then. Until then, I won’t).

And that’s a wrap for New Hampshire.

The Existential Angst of Jeb Bush Failing to Best Ted Cruz in the New Hampshire Primary, in Twitter Form (Featuring Jim Gilmore)

How I spent my New Hampshire primary night.

Postscript: Gilmore eventually cracked triple digits. Good for him.

Team Scalzi

Not long ago I was having a conversation about some recent business stuff going on in my life, and the person I was having the conversation with noted that I was using “we” instead of “I” a lot when I was talking about decisions. They were curious whether there was more than one person actually involved in my decision-making process, or if I just had a massively inflated ego and was using the royal “we.” Well:

1. Yes, I have a massively inflated ego, I mean, duh;

2. In this case, however, I regularly rely on other people to help me make business decisions concerning my work, and that’s who the “we” refers to. At this point in my life there is, in fact, a “Team Scalzi.”

It’s not an official team, mind you. We don’t have softball jerseys or anything (although, now that I think of it, this could be done…), and none of them work for me as an employee. Rather, there are people I work with on the business side of my life to get things done and/or to help me plan for the future and for future projects.

Nor is this especially unusual; many professional writers (and most pro authors) have a group of people who they listen to, or at least get advice from, in terms of their careers and business and futures. The people in these roles, and the types of role, vary from writer to writer, of course.

So who is my “team”? They are:

Spouse: This would be Kristine Scalzi, who, aside from being my partner in life, has a super-sharp business mind both naturally and by education (she has a business degree). She also handles much of the business end of things here, in terms of tracking and organizing various projects and contracts and such. Also, she handles nearly all the homefront issues, which is important when one travels as much as I do.

Smart authors will often compliment their spouses/spousal equivalents and assure you that they would be nothing without them; in my case this is actually also true. Krissy’s organizational and business skills, and willingness to hold down the fort, are nearly entirely responsible for the fact that we are solvent and that I am able to take advantage of as many opportunities as I can. Nothing gets done without her, and everything that does gets done, is made better by her.

Literary Agent: This is Ethan Ellenberg of the Ethan Ellenberg Agency. Aside from a spouse or spousal equivalent, this is probably the most common “team member” for any author. I figure most of you know what an agent does, but for those of you who don’t, this is the person responsible for helping me sell my books to publishers, not just here in the US but worldwide. To do this Ethan has his own team, starting with Bibi Lewis, who handles my foreign sales, and also including a large number of subagents from around the world, who help find buyers in foreign territories. Ethan is a very large part of the reason this happened, and why my work is now in two dozen languages worldwide.

Editor: This is Patrick Nielsen Hayden, my editor at Tor (there are others as well, notably Bill Schafer at Subterranean Press and Steve Feldberg at Audible). Aside from editing my novels, a job that’s he’s done pretty well for a decade now, he and I also strategize about which projects to write and when to put them out, and how to market them to booksellers and readers. In this, Patrick quite obviously has his own team to work with: It’s called Tor Books (likewise Bill and Steve at their respective companies). All these teams are pretty good at what they do.

Film/Television Agent: This is Joel Gotler, of Intellectual Property Management. He’s the one who shops my work to/fields offers from producers and studios in Los Angeles for possible film/TV projects, and given the number of projects we’ve had optioned, he’s clearly good at it. He also advises me on which projects are mostly likely to get interest at any particular moment, and helps me field non-literary-derived projects as well (not everything I pitch for the screen was originally a book).

Entertainment Lawyer: Hey, did you know contracts are tricky and you might want to have a lawyer look at them and give you advice about them? My entertainment lawyer is Matt Sugarman of Weintraub Tobin. In addition to vetting contracts, I also bend his ear about the entertainment industry landscape as he sees it, and where he thinks it might go from here. I also and independently use a local lawyer, John Marchal, to handle estate planning and other such issues not directly related to entertainment, but which have bearing on my business.

Accountant: This is Julie Boring, of Boring & Associates, who has handled our taxes since we moved to Ohio in 2001 and who has kept up with my (sometimes rather drastically) changing income and tax profile over the last fifteen years. She keeps me up to date on tax issues and concerns and helps me regarding how best to maximize charitable giving.

Financial Planning and Services: Dave Selsor of Fifth Third Securities is helping us here. I’m not a flashy investor and generally I follow the advice I give nearly everyone about investing, i.e., “shove it into an index fund and don’t think about it for thirty years.” But we have a few other (generally financially conservative) irons in the fire, and a few less-than-usual financial concerns that take a bit of planning.

Note that members of this “team” interact with each other to varying degrees: My agent interacts with my editor and my film/TV agent, for example, but not generally with my accountant or investment planner. The only consistent point of contact here for all of these folks is me. Nevertheless, information is shared one way or another (usually through me).

I will also note that all the members of my “team,” save my wife, are part of other peoples’ teams as well — my agent (and his agency) has many other clients, as does my lawyer and accountant and so on. It’s a little presumptuous to talk about them as my team, and I know it. Nevertheless these are people in a privileged position in regards to both knowledge of my career and their ability to assist me with it, and when they’re doing that, we’re working toward the same goal. Like a team! So there you are.

Additionally — this is my particular team, which has been built over the years based on my own career needs. Other folks have have some of these people and not others, or others that I don’t have. For example, I don’t have an assistant, which several authors of my acquaintance have (at least one I know has more than one). I also don’t have a manager, which some authors, particularly those who want to work in movies/TV, choose to have. In my case, neither of these make sense. I know other authors who choose not to have agents, a choice I would not be comfortable with personally, but which they seem to be content with. And of course, many writers are single, or might, for varying reasons, prefer not to have their spouses actively involved with the minutiae of their careers.

For what I do and how I do it, this is the team loadout that works for me (literally). In return, most of them get a bit of my income out of it — commissions and fees and such. Which is another thing to think about, incidentally: Whether what you get out of these services will be what you pay for it. In my case it’s a yes — I can’t even imagine trying to wrangle my taxes at this point, or attempting to sell books in Thailand or Estonia, or wherever. Each of these “team” members either helps me save or make money (in some cases both!) and give me good advice, in their areas of expertise, to make decisions. They are well worth what they charge. Again, your mileage may vary.

Do one, as a writer, need people in these particular roles? Well, I always think it’s nice to have a spouse, if you can manage it. Other than that a lot will depend on what your career goals are and how much work you want to take on. For example, if you self-publish primarily and don’t want or plan to approach publishers, either here or overseas, your need for an agent is lower than mine; likewise if you don’t publish books and/or freelance primarily for magazines and Web sites where you can query directly. Also, in many cases, it’s not just about you choosing who to work with. They also have to choose you.

In any event, when I say “we” when I talk about my business, one or more of the folks above are the people that are included in the word. They’re all good at what they do, and I’m glad that in what they do, they do it with and for me.

The 2016 Audie Award Finalists for Fantasy

The Audie Awards are the big award in audio books, celebrating both the words of the author and the performances of the readers. Having won this award myself with Wil Wheaton, I can assure you it’s a thrill to be a finalist with your audiobook reader and even more fun to win.

This year I’m delighted to announce the Audie Award Finalists for 2016 in the category of Fantasy. That’s right! You’re reading it here first!

If for some reason you can’t read the graphic above, the finalists are:

  • Ascension: The Trymoon Saga, by Brain K. Fuller, read by Simon Vance
  • The Cycle of Arawn, by Edward W. Robertson, read by Tim Gerard Reynolds
  • The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin, read by Robin Miles
  • Nice Dragons Finish Last, by Rachel Aaron, read by Vikas Adam
  • Son of the Black Sword, by Larry Correia, read by Tim Gerard Reynolds

Winners will be recognized at the Audies Gala in Chicago on May 11, 2016.

Congratulations and good luck to all of the finalists!

Guess Who Completely Lost Track of Time and Forgot to Update His Web Site Today?

Yep, that would be me. Sorry.

Here, have this lovely version of “God Only Knows” from Petra Haden in compensation.

Pizza and Particles: An Observation on Writing

Note: This entry includes spoilers for my book Redshirts, so if you haven’t read it and want some elements to be a surprise, go ahead and stop reading now.

As you can see from the above embedded tweet and picture, a reader (who also appears to be a NASA scientist) asked me a question about the atoms in the pizza eaten in Redshirts, consumed by the heroes of the story, who had also traveled back in time.

Why would this matter? Because as a plot point in the book, time travelers had about six days to get back to their own time before they began to disintegrate — the atoms of their bodies from the future also existed in the past they’re visiting, and the atoms (eventually) can’t be two places at the same time and would choose to “exist” in the positions where they were in the current frame of reference.

Which is fine as long as you don’t mix atom eras. But when the characters ate pizza, they were commingling atoms from the book’s 2012 with their own atoms several centuries later — and what happens to those atoms from the pizza when the characters return to their own time? Because the atoms gained from the pizza would simultaneously be present elsewhere, and, as already noted, the atoms default to where they were supposed to be in their then-current frame of reference. Right?

As you can see from the tweet above I avoided the answer by giving a completely bullshit response (and then bragging about it). I’m delighted to say I was immediately called on it by another NASA scientist, and I responded appropriately, i.e., by running away. I’m the Brave Sir Robin of science, I am.

But it is actually an interesting question, both for itself and for what it says about my writing process. So now let me try to answer it more fully, because why not.

First, here are the some of the options for what happened to the pizza atoms:

1. After six days they were pooed out and that was the end of it (so to speak). This is a glib answer, and immediately brings up other questions like: So, people from the future don’t absorb atoms from the past at all? Wouldn’t they get hungry? Or thirsty, because presumably it would work the same for liquids? How would they respire? Wouldn’t it be the case in this scenario that everyone from the future would be dead in five minutes from lack of oxygen? These are all reasonable questions, and if correct would have made for a shorter and rather more tragic book, so let’s assume this scenario is not in fact the correct one.

2. After six days the atoms do what they do and revert to their then current locations. What does this mean for each individual? I suspect in the long term not too much. One, a fair number of the atoms will no longer be in the body anyway; they’ll have left through excretion, both through the alimentary canal and respiration. As for the rest, some of them would still be in the body as waste product (i.e., in the process of being expelled but not yet), while the ones that were in the body would be roughly evenly distributed so their sudden disappearance would… probably… not be substantially noticed or cause great disruption to body systems. But it’s certainly possible (depending on how much you eat and/or the positions of these atoms in one’s body) there might be side effects. In this scenario, time travel carries risk analogous to exposure to high radiation levels: Probably fine in small doses, but the more you do it, the more problems potentially crop up. This scenario is logical, given the rules of the particular universe in the book.

3. But wait! At the very end it was revealed there was yet another layer of reality, maybe, and also, maybe, a prime mover of the story independent of the story itself, an author, if you will, who probably could, at their whim, decide that the pizza atoms would just stay where they were, or at least not cause any damage as they left because the author had promised the readers that everyone in the book lived happily ever, so he wouldn’t, like, have them die stupidly from vaporizing atoms, what kind of bullshit is that. This scenario is not outside the realm of possibility, given the rules of the particular universe in the book, but it is kind of slapdash and lazy. Or is it? (Yes.) (Maybe.)

So what’s the actual answer? The actual answer is as the writer I didn’t give the pizza atom scenario any thought whatsoever — it just didn’t come up at all while I was writing — so when this fellow asked the question, I had no idea what the actual answer was, aside from “I don’t know, I didn’t think about it at the time, or really ever, until just now.”

Why didn’t I think of it? For one thing it wasn’t directly material to story at hand, either immediately or long term, so as a plotting consideration it wouldn’t have been anything I would have spent time on. For another thing I was writing quickly and even if I had thought about it at the time, my answer would have likely been “it doesn’t matter to the story, keep going.”

For a third thing, and this is the most relevant thing, I think, writing fiction isn’t about necessarily about so thoroughly developing your world that you as an author have an immediate answer for every possible consequence of the development of your universe. What you are often going for is sufficiency — that the world is logical enough to play in for the purposes of your story — and direction — moving people along in the story quickly enough that they don’t have time or the interest to question your worldbuilding or story-telling choices, at least until the story is done and you’ve bundled them back out into the real world, waving and smiling.

This doesn’t mean you settle for bad or sloppy worldbuilding, on the idea that you’ll just move readers along quickly enough that they don’t see the seams. No, you still attempt to make the universe you’re creating sound. If you set up rules for the universe, you have to follow them as a writer. What it means, however, is that once you’ve made up the rules for the universe, you don’t necessarily have to have an answer for every single question that might come up later. If you’ve built the universe soundly, when previously unanswered questions come up, you can create plausible answers based on the rules of the world you’ve built. Or, more likely, others can, in fan forums and blog posts and Twitter streams, while you sit back and every once in a while say “This is a very interesting theory you have! It might even be true!”

The point is that authors are often an interesting combination of god and tour guide: We create worlds, but then only let readers see the parts of the worlds that suit our own needs — that tell the story we want to tell. What that means is sometimes there are parts to our world that we haven’t seen either, that we only see when or if a reader gets away from us and asks a question we didn’t think to ask ourselves. Sometimes, that question is about pizza.

New Books and ARCs, 2/5/16

Hey, you like books? I like books too! Here are a bunch of new books/ARCs that have come to my door this last week. See any you like? Tell me in the comments!

Various and Sundry 2/5/16

Thoughts on a few things, thoughtfully contained in a single post:

* First, look, a kitten picture!

So dramatic. As noted elsewhere, I suspect that at this point my obit will be headlined, “John Scalzi, Cat Photographer and Occasional Author, Dead of Dander” or something of the sort. But, eh. I’m having fun. And the kittens don’t seem to mind.

* Some folks have asked me if I have any thoughts on the most recent Democratic debate, and the answer is no, not really, for reasons that I mentioned earlier: Basically, Sanders and Clinton represent two flavors of “perfectly acceptable” to me, both in terms of their general positions and relative to whomever the Republicans eventually cough up on their side, so, really, the debates are at this point generally superfluous for one such as myself.

It’s not to say that the debates shouldn’t happen — I think it’s useful for both the candidates and others to see them go head to head on each other, and I suppose there’s a vanishingly small chance that either one of them might do something genuinely foolish or appalling, and then everyone will fall in line with the other candidate after that. But unless and until Clinton or Sanders start gargling puppy blood on stage, whatever.

* On the Republican side of things, it was amusing to watch Trump freak out about not winning Iowa, sad to see Jeb Bush beg people to clap, schadenfreudelicious to see Cruz get apparently absolutely no political or social bump from his win, and interesting to watch the entire chattering class decide that Rubio’s third place finish means he’s going to be the eventual GOP nominee.

Does it? Possibly, although don’t expect either Cruz or Trump to play along, the latter of whom is wounded but is still far ahead in New Hampshire, and the former of whom would happily push a schoolyard of children in front of a bus, one at a time, if that meant he was assured of the presidency. Neither will go down without a fight. Trump I think is already planning his ragequit and independent run should New Hampshire and the next round of primaries not go his way. Also, at this point in Republican history, it’s maybe not the best thing to be seen as a malleable empty suit for the billionaires, which is the thing that recommends Rubio at this point over his main competitors, despite on of them being funded by billionaires, and the other actually being one.

But, honestly, I think Kasich is the best of the GOP field, so what do I know.

* The Internet Outrage of the Week™ was about pathetic MRA/PUA troll Roosh V planning public meetups with his equally pathetic troll pals, only to cancel the meetups when the world announced its general intention to show up and mock the shit out of them. A writer at the Washington Post suggests that everyone got played and now this Roosh character has tons of attention, which is what he was really after. But, you know, when the major story coming out of this little escapade is that the fellow who is the grand alpha mastermind of a men’s movement, who frequently takes selfies of himself with nice cars and mad stacks of cash to signal his manly manliness to the boys he wishes to impress, lives, apparently on sufferance, in his mom’s basement, it does take the air of the fellow a bit, not to mention his “movement.” He’s got attention, but what the attention is saying is “you’re sad and ridiculous.”

The whole “Roosh lives in his mom’s basement” factoid inspired a bit of hand-wringing, in the form of “is it okay to mock someone for living in their mom’s basement when times are tough and sometimes you need the help of your family?” Well, one, in general? Totally fine to live in your parent’s basement as an adult if that’s the hand life is dealing you at the moment. Two, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to note that and also indulge in the rich, creamy irony of a dude trying to posit himself as a testosterone-spiked lord of all he surveys, surveying only as far as his mom’s washer/dryer unit in front of a foundation wall. Or to it another way, with regard to this Roosh character, I was immediately reminded of this meme:

(This isn’t to suggest the ethos this character promotes is to be laughably dismissed, since that shit is noxious and dangerous to women. He is sad and ridiculous; his ethos needs to be stomped on, hard.)

* This Roosh V nonsense washed up on my particular shore because more than a year ago the dude wrote a piece suggesting that maybe rape should be allowed on private property, and then apparently a couple of days ago appended a “THIS IS SATIRE DUH” notation on it when the media started referring to him as pro-rape, and he realized that his publicity master plan doesn’t do him any good when he’s referred to as “Pro-rape jackass Roosh V,” or some variation thereof, in headlines. As justification for his “satire” some of his useful idiots unearthed this piece of mine from 2012, which is indeed satire and on the subject of rape, and whined about why it was that I got to get away with my piece, and not this Roosh fellow.

Well, since the question has been asked:

1. It helps to note for those who might not be clear that the piece is satire, that it is satire, which I did, in the very first comment to the piece, before anyone had actually read it, rather than to, oh, wait a year to append the notation on the piece, long after it had found an audience, and after the media has latched on to it as representative of your views.

2. It also helps when your “satire” does not closely correlate to virtual reams of text you’ve produced as a “pick up artist” guru, suggesting in no uncertain terms that you think “no” means something other than “no” and encouraging others to model that sort of thinking, which would suggest to people that the “satirical” piece is actually representative of your views. Jonathan Swift did not espouse the efficacy of cannibalism generally; likewise I do not promote the ethos of “no means keep going” when it comes to sex.

3. With the two points noted above, announcing suddenly that something that has become inconvenient to you is now satire, duh, is a poor argument for it being so, especially if it’s been pulling freight to one’s audience as something else for the better part of a year. If you think it works this way, this is evidence that you may subscribe to the idea that life is like a card game, and that if, for example, you can lay down the “satire” card, it will totally negate the “accusation of pro-rape” card your opponent has played and give you a +3 Aggrieved Self-Righteousness bonus against further attacks. When you’re a grown-up, you learn that’s not how life actually works. This may be why this particular master of PUA (which tries to gamify human interactions) lives in a parental basement.

Now, despite the early notation of my piece being satire and complete textual lack of me as a person supporting the ethos in the satirical piece, some MRA/PUA types like to assert that the piece is evidence I have confessed to being a rapist. So the irony of the same sort of people simultaneously suggesting that it’s evidence that this Roosh character piece should be treated as satire, is, well. Substantial. Make up your mind, children.

* To end on a better note, Amanda Palmer and Jherek Bischoff have a new EP of Bowie covers, and it’s pretty good. I’m particularly fond of their “Ashes to Ashes” cover. Here you go. Enjoy (and buy if you like it; a portion of it will go to cancer research).

 

In Case You Have Not Yet Gotten Your Recommended Daily Allowance of Kittens From the Internet Today

There you go, all caught up now. You’re welcome.

Plus, a dog! You know, as an extra. You’re welcome again!

What The Hell, February

At the moment it’s 51 degrees here in Bradford, and expected to hit 54 as a high, which, I would note, is twenty degrees higher than the average temperature here for February 3rd. And while we again remind ourselves that weather is not climate, plus El Nino, I am nevertheless reminded that we had no snow in December and only a few genuinely cold days in January, and that while we might get to freezing daytime temperatures tomorrow, after that it’s all 40s until well into next week. February is generally one of our snowiest months around here, but this year, snow-wise, it looks like it will be a real bust.

Which, again, as someone who spent his childhood in Los Angeles, is fine with me! I went outside and took this picture in a t-shirt and bare feet! How awesome is that! And yet, the description I’d use for the winter is uncanny. There ought to be snow in February in Bradford, Ohio, or at least cold. 51 is not cold. It’s barely cool. On one level I like it. On another it’s unsettling. And it does make me wonder what the rest of 2016 is going to be like, weatherwise. I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

The Worldwide Distribution of Scalzis

A website named Forebears.io claims to know the number of people who share one’s surname and their distribution worldwide (presumably via publicly available census materials), so I figured, what the heck, I would plug “Scalzi” in there and see what happened.

What happened: If the information on the site is at all reasonably accurate, then there aren’t a whole lot of Scalzis out there — just over 2,000 worldwide, just under half of them (somewhat logically) in Italy, with the US in second place with just over 700 (as a contrast, there are over four million people with the surname of “Smith” worldwide). There are more than four times as many people named “Scalzo” out there. “Scalzi” is, according to this Web site, the 175,162nd most common name in the world.

This doesn’t really tell me anything that I didn’t already know, i.e., that there aren’t a whole lot of Scalzis in the world. I knew that because outside of my extended family I only know of relatively few Scalzis, particularly here in the US, although of course of those there are, the Internet makes them easier to find. Hi, guys!

It also explains why, for all intents and purposes, I am the Scalzi online, which is to say that I’m all over the search engine results for the name. It’s not that I’m all that amazing; it’s that the field of other players with the name is limited. I mean, I’ll take it; I like being very easy to find on Google. But it’s a case of being a big Internet fish in a small online pond. I do once again apologize to all the other Scalzis out there. Sorry for hogging the bandwidth on the name.

Interestingly, my wife’s previous last name, Blauser, is even less common than Scalzi, worldwide, although it has nearly 100 more people using it in the US than Scalzi has. What can I say? We’re uncommon people.

In Today’s Edition of Scalzi Buys Art: “Oscillations” by Johnna Y. Klukas

Last month I was the author guest of honor at the Arisia convention, and Johnna Y. Klukas was the artist guest of honor. She works primarily with wood, and had brought a number of pieces to the convention to show off as examples of her work, and to sell. One piece I had admired, and which my eye kept coming back to, was one called “Oscillations.” The piece was up for sale and I didn’t want to deprive any Arisia attendee of the opportunity to purchase it for themselves, so I didn’t put in an offer. But then it was Sunday and they were about to pack it up, so I said, “Hey, that one? I’ll totally buy it.”

And I did! And now here it is at my house, and I think it’s lovely. And so does Krissy, which is a good thing, because it’s not small, and now she has to find a place for it in our house.

In any event, I wanted to show off my new acquisition, so look: Here it is. And if you like it, here’s Johnna Klukas’ Web site, with other pieces she has done. Well worth the look, and I’m sure you can check with her to see what she has available for sale.

The End of All Things on the 2015 Locus Recommended Reading List

In the category of science fiction novels, naturally enough, alongside excellent novels by folks like Paolo Bacigalupi, James Cambias, Ann Leckie, Cixin Liu, Nnedi Okorafor, Adam Roberts, Justina Robson, Michael Swanwick and Catherynne Valente among others. Then there are the fantasy novels, first novels and all the other short fiction and non-fiction categories.

It’s an impressive list of worthy reading, and you can see the whole thing here.

It’s also a fine place to look for things to consider for awards; I would particularly suggest the non-fiction and art books categories for the Best Related Work category of the Hugo Awards. There’s some good stuff there, and the Best Related Work category, I think, is a category that’s particularly susceptible to mischief, in terms of nominations.

(Another reminder that I am myself sitting out the year in terms of award consideration. Nominate other people and works, please!)

Super pleased TEoAT made this year’s recommended reading list, and even more pleased to be in the company of excellent writers, not only in my own category, but in the list in general. Congratulations, everyone.

The Scamperbeasts Rule

The Scamperbeasts Twitter account passed the 5,000 followers milestone today, which is a nice round number considering it’s only been around for a little over three weeks. People love kittens.

In commemoration of this achievement, and also for the betterment of the Twitter experience in general, I made the following announcement:

Because, you know what? If you’re going to be the sort of jackass whose idea of a fun time is to troll and/or insult me on Twitter, I think it’s entirely fair for me to introduce a filtering process, dictating whether or not you rate any of my attention at all, involving kittens.

Why the somewhat arbitrary choice of using my kittens’ Twitter follower number as the filtering criterion?

1. Why not? It’s not like Twitter trolls/assholes deserve more consideration than that;

2. Because it amuses me to say to myself, as I mute these twits forever, “Come back when you’re not thoroughly trounced by kittens.”

(Not that I will unmute them if they do get more followers than my kittens, mind you. It’s totally meant as a dismissive statement.)

Formally codifying this into The Scamperbeasts Rule: 

If a Twitter troll/jerk has fewer followers than the @scamperbeasts Twitter account, do not engage; ignore and mute/block. 

My adopting this new Scamperbeasts Rule means that roughly 99+% of all possible Twitter trolls/jerks fall into the automatic “ignore and mute” category, as the Scamperbeats have more followers now than more than 99% of all Twitter users. Which is useful because honestly I’m tempted to snark at these jerks before I mute them forever. As enjoyable for me as that can be, it ends up taking brain cycles more profitably used in other endeavors. The Scamperbeasts Rule is a time management tool for me, basically.

(And what will I do with the would-be trolls who do have more followers than my kittens? My plan is to condescend to them once and then mute them, and bask in the knowledge that they are henceforth wasting their time only, trolling into a blank wall.)

Now, The Scamperbeasts Rule will not necessarily work for everyone, but if you do think it could work for you, I heartily encourage you to employ it. Just the pleasure or looking at someone spewing bullshit at you and thinking sorry, you’ve been bested by cats before you consign them into oblivion is reason enough to use it. I’m looking forward to it being my own standard practice.

Impostor Syndrome, or Not

At ConFusion last week, I had a great many conversations with a great many folks on a large number of topics, but there was one topic that seemed to pop up more than usual: Impostor Syndrome.

Impostor Syndrome, briefly put, is the feeling that one’s achievements and status are a fluke, and that sooner or later one will be revealed as a fraud. Anecdotally speaking, it seems, Imposter Syndrome affects a lot of writers, editors and other folks in the publishing life. I think this is in part because the writing life is a precarious one, financially and otherwise, and also in part because people in publishing seem to be a generally neurotic lot anyway. Imposter Syndrome is just another log on that particular fire.

Imposter Syndrome is a real thing and it’s not something I’d want to make light of because I think it has harmful effects. I think it can make people cautious in the exercise of their art and their career when they could be (and want to be) taking chances, and I think it can make people vulnerable to being taken advantage of by people/organizations who intentionally or otherwise leverage those feelings for their own advantage.

It’s pernicious, basically, and it frustrates me that so many talented people who have earned their places in the field with their work battle with it. I think it’s good that people are talking about it, however. It means that they are aware that it’s a thing and that it’s a lie. Naming it and describing it and knowing of it goes a long way in fighting it.

The discussions over the weekend also made me reflect on the issue of Impostor Syndrome and me, and the fact that as far as I know I have never had it, particularly in regard to being a writer. This isn’t an accomplishment, mind you, or something to brag on. It’s just an observation; at no point in my writing career did I ever feel like I didn’t deserve to be where I was, doing what I was doing. I’ve always been, yup, this is who I am and what I do.

Which is nice for me, you know, but also prompted me to think about why it was that I felt that way. I mean, it could be the Dunning-Kruger effect, in which incompetent people don’t believe they’re incompetent. Certainly I have enough detractors who would be happy to suggest that this is exactly the case, when it comes to me. Which, okay, sure. Maybe. Why not.

But if it’s not that, and I’m pretty sure it’s not, then what explains my lack of Impostor Syndrome?

Here’s what I think.

One, I knew fairly early that I wanted to be a writer and worked toward it directly. I knew at age fourteen that I wanted to be a writer. Having decided that, I was done seriously considering any other career choice. I didn’t have a back-up or fallback plan.

It helped, I suspect, that the type of writing I wanted to do back then was journalism, which was at the time both a practical and achievable goal — there were newspapers in the 80s! And they hired people to write in them! — rather than to be a novelist or fiction writer, which was (and is) a more amorphous thing.

But basically, having decided in my early teens that I was going to be a writer, I did not doubt I would ever become a writer. So when I became a professional writer I didn’t question how I got there. I got there because I had planned it all along. That said,

Two, no one ever questioned my intent or ability to be a writer. Which is to say that, particularly in high school, no one ever pulled me aside and said to me either “hey, you know, writing is a tough gig, maybe you should plan to do something else with your life,” or “you idiot, what makes you think you can be a writer?” Not my mom, or any of my teachers, or any of my schoolmates.

Indeed, quite the opposite: At every step in the early years of my ambition I was encouraged. My mom encouraged me because among other things that’s what parents should do at that point. My teachers were more grounded about it but did the same — they gave me tips on how to write, and pushed back at me when I got lazy (which was often), and otherwise were very much like, this is what you want to do? Okay, let us help. And as far as my schoolmates were concerned, they very quickly accepted my persona as That Dude Who Wants to Be a Writer (plus I wrote stories where many of them were characters, and they were all very clever in the stories, and who doesn’t like that).

So: I knew I wanted to be a writer early on, and early on everyone I knew — really, everyone — accepted that I was going to be a writer. That early determination and reinforcement went a long way.

Three, I progressed without impediment early on. This means that I never found a problem in leveling up to doing the things that reinforced that writing was a thing I could do, was good at, and that people expected from me. When I showed up to the University of Chicago, pretty much the first thing I did after dropping my stuff in my dorm room was head to the offices of the Chicago Maroon, the student newspaper, and announce that I was going to write a column for them. And what did they do with this cheeky twerp who said this? Well, they let me write a column. And then another, and then after that I was a weekly columnist and reviewer of music, books and films.

Later I became an editor and then editor-in-chief, these things in turn opening doors to become an intern at a daily newspaper. That in turn helped me become a freelance writer for newspapers and magazines in Chicago, which (in addition to my degree from Chicago) helped me land my first full-time professional gig as a film critic for the Fresno Bee newspaper.

All of this socially reinforced the idea that I was a writer. At Chicago, most people who knew of me knew me first through my column in the newspaper. So, literally, what people knew about me, before they knew anything else, was that I was a writer. That column also gave me cachet and status (to a minor extent, let’s not overegg the pudding) because the students read it, or at least knew it existed. They might have thought it was terrible and that I was a jackass, jackassedly spouting jackassed opinions, but they knew who I was nevertheless. Later as the film critic and a columnist at the Bee, it was the same dynamic, on a larger scale.

Again: The way most people knew of me, if they knew of me at all, was as a writer.

Four, when I went upward, my reaction was not “now they’re going to find me out for sure,” it was “look what I just pulled off!” When I got that column gig at the Maroon, I was proud of the fact that I was a first-year student writing a weekly column. When I got the gig at the Fresno Bee, I was inordinately proud of the fact that, at 22, I was the youngest full-time syndicated film critic in the United States. A couple of years later, when I got a weekly opinion column, not only was I the youngest nationally-syndicated opinion columnist out there, I had achieved my actual life goal — Hey! I’m newspaper columnist! Like Mike Royko or Molly Ivins! — before the age of 25.

The fact that I was objectively not a very good newspaper columnist at age 24 was immaterial to this feeling (I was just good enough, barely, and had a lot of slack cut for me, although unsurprisingly it wasn’t until later that I realized that fact). The point was my ego was and always had been turned to “this is good for me!” as opposed to “this is where they find out I’m unqualified.”

This can be a dangerous thing — remember that Dunning-Kruger thing? Well, my attitude is pretty much exactly how that happens — but I was also fortunate at every step of the way to be surrounded by people (editors, other writers, friends, etc) who helped to rein me in and also pointed out when I was being a jerk, or oblivious to the point of being an ass.

I even listened to them, from time to time. I remember at one point blathering on to my non-fiction agent about something and mentioning my age at the time as a qualifying feature, and he said, offhandedly, “You know, 28 is kind of old to be a prodigy at anything.” Which I’m sure he meant as a throwaway point, but which I took very seriously. It meant that I had stop being proud of stepping stone achievements, and start investing more in the quality of the work at hand.

Like I said, offhand comment, but it mattered, and I’m glad that at the time my ego was not so enormous that I couldn’t listen.

Speaking of which:

Five, when things hit a wall, I re-invested in being a writer. My ego in my 20s, particularly with regard to being seen as a writer, was huge, in part because it had never been challenged. Turns out it’s easy to cruise along in a wafty cloud of clueless self-regard when everything’s pretty much gone your way. What’s interesting is what happens when it doesn’t — as happened to me, in 1998, when I was laid off from America Online, where I was then working as a writer and editor.

I’ve written about this before, but the short version was that being laid off hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. All my self-regard and ego did not save me from having my job cut out from under me for reasons that didn’t have much to do with me (the group I was in was dissolving; I as the in-house writer/editor was a company-wide resource; no one wants to put a company-wide resource on their departmental budget). I was not so special that I was not expendable. Yeah, that hurt.

More importantly, it made me question a lot of things that I had previously just assumed, including centering my image of who I was on my job, and the fact I was a writer. When it was all over, I reordered my self image a bit. I was a writer, yes. It was what I wanted to do with my work life and I was going to find a way to make that happen. But I was also not just my job anymore — or more accurately, the amount of my ego that was invested in “John Scalzi, writer” became less; it got refocused into being a person and husband and (soon-to-be) father. I was comfortable enough about what I did as my job that I didn’t have to let it define me to the extent I let it before. I could have the confidence to let it go a bit.

The conscious re-investment in being a writer, and re-evaluation of what being a writer meant to me, mattered. I can’t speak to anyone else, but for me, as drivelingly cliche as this is to say now, this crisis did become an opportunity, and (this must be noted) with the help of my wife particularly, and with the help of friends, I was able to take that advantage of that opportunity.

Much of what my life is now is because of that. This is why I often say now that being laid off turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me.

As a result of this:

Six, my view of myself of a writer is now not focused on whether other people consider me so. It’s not a coincidence that I started writing a blog soon after I was laid off from AOL; it’s not a coincidence that the first novel I wrote I decided to post here, rather than try to sell to someone else. To be clear, I like selling work and I like being financially successful as a writer — doing both gives me freedom to make more (and usually better) choices in terms of my career. Nor am I disingenuous enough to suggest that at this point in my career, the awards and contracts and so on aren’t useful signifiers.

But ultimately, I’ve done enough and I know myself well enough that if I never sold another piece of work to anyone, it wouldn’t matter in terms of my self-image as a writer. That is what I do. I have millions of words to speak to that point, but more importantly, I have self-awareness of who I am and of what writing has meant to me.

Now, it may be that some other people might then want to deny that I’m a writer, for whatever reason that they would need to do that. But you know what? That’s their karma and I wish them joy with that. I’m not obliged to care what they think. I don’t need anyone else’s approval or approbation to know what I know about myself. I’m a writer.

So there’s that.

(And having said aaaaall of that, let’s note a couple other things. Like: Hey, did you know I’m a straight white male who benefited from a really elite education? That helped — for example, when I forgot to apply for newspaper internships and a friend of mine called his dad, who called his pal the publisher of the San Diego Tribune, and a couple of steps later, whoa, look, an internship! Also, I happened to be in my 20s at the same time the first Internet Bubble was puffing up, which was great for finding gigs and building a resume. Also also, with respect to novels and fiction, I had been a professional writer for fifteen years before my first novel was published, so I had a decade and a half (not to mention several non-fiction books published prior to Old Man’s War) to get used to the idea that writing was a thing I could do. Also also also, I appear to be generally less neurotic than most writers, or at least, neurotic in somewhat different directions. And so on. It all helped, and helps.)

I think it’s important to note something at this point: These are reasons why I believe I’ve never had Imposter Syndrome. But at the end of the day, the main reason I would say to writers that they shouldn’t ever have to feel like they are impostors is that if you write, you are a writer, and it really is that simple. Whether you sell a book to a publisher is immaterial to this fact; likewise whether you become a bestseller, or award winner or if you write a book that people are still talking about two hundred years from now.

Here’s the question: Do you write? If the answer is yes, you’re a writer. Believe it.

And if anyone gives you shit about it, including yourself, come back over here and read this following graph:

Hey, that person? They’re wrong. If you write, you’re a writer. Done.

Now get back out there and write some more.

New Books and ARCs, 1/29/16

And now, to carry us off into the weekend, here’s a dozen new books and ARCs that have come to the Scalzi Compound in the last couple of weeks. See anything here that floats your proverbial boat? Tell me what it is in the comments!

2016 Hugo Nominations Open

For those of you of a science fictional and/or fantastic bent, the nomination period for the Hugo Awards has now begun and will run until March 31. You can nominate if you were a member of last year’s convention (Sasquan), if you are a member of this year’s convention (MidAmeriCon II), or are a member of next year’s convention (Worldcon 75). If you are not a member of any of these but will still like to nominate, you have until January 31 (that’s two days from the writing of this post) to become a Worldcon member (here’s the information on that).

(If you are currently a member described above, emails including the PIN you’ll need to access the nomination ballot are going out and should arrive in the next week.)

Voting for the Hugos is pretty simple: You look at the categories, find works you like that fit in the category, and then nominate them. You can nominate up to five works per category, although you can nominate fewer, too. And if you nominate online, you’ll be able to update your ballot right up until the deadline, so if a week from now you find something you love, you can put it in, and also a week later, and a week after that, too.

If you’re looking for things to read to see if you’d want to nominate them, or to suggest things that other people might consider for nomination, two ideas for you: First, the Hugo Nominees Wiki, and second, this Hugo Awards Google Spreadsheet. Both are packed with works to consider, and in both cases you can add your own suggestions.

Three points I want to make at this juncture:

1. Your Hugo nominations are meant to be your Hugo nominations, reflecting your own personal taste in science fiction and fantasy work. In the last couple of years, some folks have been presenting slates of potential nominees and encouraging people to vote for the slates for reasons. This didn’t work out well for anyone. Take suggestions, read widely, and then make your own nominations, reflecting your own taste, not anyone else’s.

2. If you are eligible to nominate for the Hugos, I think you should nominate for the Hugos. One reason the slating shenanigans happened was because only a minority of Worldcon members nominate for the Hugos, making the nomination process susceptible to gaming. This year there are at least 11,000 people eligible to nominate for the Hugos; last year over 6,000 people voted for the Hugo awards themselves. If everyone who voted for the Hugos last year nominated this year, any attempts at slating by group would probably be mitigated — and also, the nominations would reflect a more diverse group of science fiction and fantasy fans. The more people who nominate, the better.

3. Folks who are nominating should not neglect the “non-marquee” categories, including fan categories and categories like Related Work and Semi-prozine. Because these categories are often less nominated in, they can be more susceptible to gaming in general. The good news is there are lots of excellent works and people who can be nominated. The wiki and spreadsheet linked above can help with your explorations of the categories.

In short: Nominate, nominate for everything you can, and nominate out of your own brain, not anyone else’s.

(Also, a reminder: This year I’m asking people not to nominate work of mine produced in 2015 and will decline any Hugo nominations I might receive. Nominate others, please!)