Category Archives: Uncategorized

Reminder: I’m in Chicago Next Tuesday, 10/21, at the Seminary Co-op in Hyde Park, 6pm

Yes, if you’re in or around the University of Chicago — my alma mater — or, heck, just in the city of Chicago in general, come on down and see me. This is the very last official stop of the Lock In tour, and after this I have no more scheduled public appearances until 2015. So if you want to see me this year, this is the time and the place.

Here are all the details. See you there!

One Song, Two Takes: “Kiteflyer’s Hill”

My pal (and musician and songwriter) Mark Nevin wrote a song called “Kiteflyer’s Hill” for Eddi Reader, with whom he had been in the band Fairground Attraction, for her solo album Angels and Electricity. He’s recently also done a version of it for his own solo album Beautiful Guitars, which will be out in the next week or so. I have the album, and it’s well worth getting if you’re a fan of genuinely lovely songwriting, and why wouldn’t you be.

“Kiteflyer’s Hill” is simply one of my favorite songs ever — it’s beautiful and wistful and gorgeous and captures what it’s like to remember a love of long ago — and I thought it would be fun to share the song done both by Mark and by Eddi, as a way to contrast how two takes of the same song can have an effect on the feel of the thing. I like them both: Mark’s is low-key, comfortable and lived-in, while Eddi’s soars up like, well, a kite, as it would with her matchless set of pipes. I hope you enjoy both.

First Mark’s version:

And now Eddi’s (note: video is slightly out of sync):

Our New Toy

We’ve been having a pretty good year here at the Scalzi Compound, and we decided to go ahead and splurge on something that Krissy has wanted for a while now. And here it is: A big ol’ hot tub that seats six, and a big ol’ gazebo to cover it. And thus we have become Hot Tub People, who will now have to give ourselves over to the hot tub lifestyle, complete with hot tub friends and hot tub parties, and, I don’t know, possibly hot tub sous vide six course meals (note: probably not that last one).

I’ve not a huge hot tub person myself, but you know what, I’m not going to lie: it’s pretty nice to soak in this baby after a long day of, well, whatever it is I do these days. I suppose there are worse things than become Hot Tub People.

No, don’t just invite yourself over. Wait for the invite, people.

Quick Procedural Note re: Comments and Embeds

Recently WordPress changed something on the backend relating to how comments are handled (not just here, but globally) and as a result urls for images now embed in comments. Well, I’m not a fan of that; images have the potential to send things off the rails pretty quickly. I’m talking to WordPress about pulling it from the site (they’ve been very helpful), but in the meantime I’m taking the precaution of sending comments with image urls into moderation. If you post one, it’ll get held up until I approve it. I don’t imagine this will be a problem for the vast majority of you.

Mind you, if you try to post an image that annoys me, it won’t make it out of moderation, and if you keep it up, you’ll find yourself in moderation. But, again, I don’t really expect this will be an issue with most of you. Most of you are lovely people.

The Scalzi Gender

First some tweets, and then some commentary.

There’s something both telling and sad about the sort of dude who literally thinks that a) impugning my masculinity is the worst possible thing they can say about me, b) that it’ll somehow lessen me if they do. On the former, meh. Given the ridiculous ideas that they have regarding masculinity, I’m happy not to meet their definition. On the latter, whatever. They’re idiots. I’m not inclined to care, outside of the opportunities it provides for pointing and laughing.

But I do think it’s useful to publicly mock their stupidity on such subjects, for the amusement and edification of others. I also think it’s particularly useful to mock their definition of masculinity and gender, and their baseline assertion that being male is the apotheosis of the human condition. It’s not; it’s merely one way to be. I’m okay with gender being more than binary; I’m okay with people having a gender other than mine; I’m okay with people shifting their idea of what their gender is over time. Because I don’t think one’s essential value is rooted in gender, and someone else’s gender is nearly always not my business anyway. I am for people being who they are, not who anyone else wants them to be, or demands them to be for their own selfish reasons. I’m for letting the world know that I think such a position is the most correct one to have. I’m for calling out people who try to make difficult for those who don’t conform to their own, usually bigoted, expectations.

Want to declare that because I don’t meet your pointless and stupid definition of “masculinity,” I should identify as another gender entirely? Awesome. I get to create a gender that doesn’t have your jackassedness riddling it front to back. The folks in my gender won’t be focused on being a “real man” or a “real woman” but on being “really me.” My gender will have all the best parties because we can do what we want, free of gender expectations! Because there are no gender expectations! My gender gets to love whoever they want! My gender gets to be whoever they want! My gender doesn’t care what you think my gender should be! My gender rocks. And it doesn’t need you, or care what you think of it.

If only it were as easy for people of every gender to be as free in theirs as I am in mine. Because of course that’s the thing: Even when these idiots declare me “not a real man,” it doesn’t change that I am always seen to be a “real man,” and that I get all the benefits that accrue to me for being biologically male, identifying as a man, and conforming to social standards for what both of those mean. The worst these dudes can do is be mean to me on the Internet. It doesn’t change anything about what I get from the world. And while I can mock them for it and proclaim the new Scalzi Gender in all its awesomeness, let’s just say that I know that it’s easy for me to do so, because in the end society has my back. Not everyone else gets to say the same. We need to be working on that.

My Annual Plug and Appreciation for WordPress VIP

I was traveling on October 8, the official anniversary date, but today works just as well for this:

Hey, I’ve been using WordPress’ VIP service to host Whatever for six years now, and it has been consistently great during all that time: The site never goes down, never buckles under traffic or spikes, and on the very rare occasions when I do have a concern or issue, it’s addressed quickly, efficiently and by people who are awesome and easy to work with. Which is to say WordPress VIP takes the aggravation out of having a site and allows me to focus here on what I do best, which is write.

As I do every year, I unreservedly recommend WordPress VIP for folks hoping to run their sites with minimum possible levels of aggravation. It is the best hosting solution I’ve ever had. Likewise, for those folks who just want a corner of the Web to call their own, I can also recommend the standard WordPress offerings.

And, also once again, thanks to the people at WordPress VIP who have helped Whatever be a rock solid presence on the Web for the last six years. You folks are the best.

#PineapplePizzaGate

So, yeah. This was a bunch of fun.

On Using the “Mute” Button on Twitter

Yesterday I wrote about GamerGate on Twitter quite a bit, which had the effect of flooding my Twitter stream with comments by frothy lads intent on challenging me to single combat via “debate.” In this case (and indeed in most cases), this largely meant running down a cue card full of already-debunked talking points and/or attempting tired rhetorical tricks in an attempt to change the subject. These frothy lads very quickly met the thumpy end of my “mute” button, because no one has time for that.

That said, muting a couple dozen frothy lads on my tweet stream yesterday did give me some time to reflect on why, how and when I use Twitter’s “mute” feature, and about the feature in general. Allow me to share some of those thoughts with you now.

To begin, “mute” is just about the best feature on Twitter. It’s better by a long sight than Twitter’s “block” feature, which among other things makes it abundantly clear to whomever you blocked that you’re not listening to them anymore — which in some cases spurs them into anger and further negative action. “Mute” just… makes them go away. They might still be talking, and might still be thinking that they’re scoring points against you, which to my mind, and in my particular set of circumstances, is fine. I don’t care if idiots type at me until their fingers bleed, imagining they are brilliantly “debating,” or feeling better about their sad little lives by saying mean things about me to their friends, many of whom I have also already muted. I just don’t see why I need to view their ceaseless yammering on my tweet stream. “Mute” hits the spot.

But isn’t that censorship? The answer to this is: Duh, no. As I noted, “mute” doesn’t stop the pointless jabber of these sorts of folks — they’re free to pointlessly jabber until their fingers are worn down to stubs. It just means I don’t have to see it. Freedom of speech, even in its very widest definition, does not contain within that definition an obligation by anyone else to listen. This apparently confuses a lot of the frothy, but of course that’s not my problem, nor should it be anyone else’s.

(I should note, anecdotally, that there is a high correlation between the sort of person I will mute and the sort of person who thinks said muting is censorship. This is not in the least bit surprising to me. For the rest of humanity, this piece I wrote last year on Speech, Conversation, Debate, Engagement and Communication should be useful.)

So: Why do I mute? Mostly, to clear my tweet stream of stupid and/or exasperating comments. Some things I find stupid and/or exasperating: Threats, insults, less than clever snarkiness, insincere/derail-y attempts to “debate” (which is roughly 80% of them), sincere attempts to debate where the other person is clearly ignorant/misinformed on the subject and I have neither the time nor inclination to hold their hand on the subject, particularly on Twitter (nearly all of the rest; there are shining exceptions), people who are clearly trying to goad me into responding (including people who “@” me in conversation they’re having with someone else as a way to bait me), people who try to get someone else with more followers to pick a fight with me (who sometimes will, and who I will often mute for reasons noted above), and otherwise just people who for some reason or another have showed up in my tweet stream and whose nonsense I don’t want to see anymore.

Which seems like it might be a lot of people, but really isn’t, most of the time. Strange as it might seem, most people who communicate with me on Twitter are pleasant and polite — even the ones who might disagree with something I’ve said, and want to tell me so, or have what I judge to be a sincere question, or a point they want to have clarified. Even yesterday, which was a high water mark in Twitter muting, the majority of tweets that featured someone disagreeing with me were still in the stream. Criticism I can take. Stupidity and mendacity, I have less tolerance for.

(You might ask here, who gets to judge when someone is stupid/mendacious/otherwise just a real pain in the ass? Well, obviously, I do, when it comes to my tweet stream. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure these gormless wonders who I have muted think they’re positively stuffed with brains and logic. That’s nice for them. I’m not obliged to agree, engage with them any more than I choose, or otherwise keep company with them.)

Who do I mute? Unsurprisingly, perhaps, nearly all of the ones who display identifying information them are male, young(ish) and anecdotally, appear to be the bog-standard status-anxious straight white sort who toss insults and stupidity in my direction in order to impress… well, whoever they think is impressed by their being a twit on Twitter. This does not surprise me for several reasons, including the fact that my own politics/social points of view trend away from the ones most commonly espoused by the status-anxious young(ish) straight white men who seem determined to be a pain in the ass on Twitter. I rarely find myself muting folks outside that profile, although of course there have been a few. Some people are just jerks, regardless of political/social points of view.

Other factors that I consider with muting: Whether the account follows me or not (the latter are more likely to be flyby jerks and why bother with them), whether the account profile information is filled out (if your profile picture is an egg, you’re more likely to be a sockpuppet/troll account), how many followers they have (the fewer, the more likely to be a sockpuppet/troll account), and so on.

How do I mute? Typically these days through TweetDeck, which my most common interface with Twitter. Tweetdeck will let you mute individual users, which is usually the route I go when I mute, but will also let you mute keywords, which comes in handy from time to time. For example, yesterday, when a number of yammering blowhards “@”-ed a specific user they wanted to join into the fray. I determined that most tweets with that person “@”-ed would likely be useless noise, so I listed that user’s name as a muted keyword, and voila — bulk muting, which saved me a bit of carpal tunnel pain. Tweetdeck also saves your muted accounts and terms globally, so no matter which computer I’m using it on, it remembers who I don’t want to hear from. This is nice.

Tweetdeck’s drawback (compared to Janetter, my previous Twitter client on Desktop and still my client on mobile) is that it doesn’t have timed muting — the ability to mute for a few hours or days rather than on a permanent basis. This means that if you want to unmute someone (and occasionally you might!) you have to remember to go back in and do that manually. I’d love for Tweetdeck to introduce timed muting at some later point.

So that’s some of the philosophy and mechanics of my muting on Twitter. I encourage (nearly) everyone to make use of muting — even if you use it to mute me! — because, honestly, just because you happen to use Twitter with a bunch of yippy dipshits doesn’t mean you’re obliged to listen to their nonsense. Use the mute button and use it well.

My Thoughts This Morning on GamerGate

Actually, the first of these are from last night, in the wake of learning that game developer Brianna Wu was threatened out of her home:

What followed this morning after a whole lot of stupid on my comment threads when I woke up this morning:

A Note on New York Comic Con’s Anti-Harassment Policy

First, you literally cannot miss it — it’s on several human-sized signs right at the entrances to Javits Center (the other side of these signs say “Cosplay is not consent.” Second, the examples are clear and obvious and the policy is not constrained to only the examples — but enough’s there that you get the idea that NYCC is serious about this stuff. Third, it’s clear from the sign that NYCC also has a commitment to implementation and execution of the policy, with a harassment reporting button baked right into its phone app. This is, pretty much, how an anti-harassment policy should be implemented.

And as a result, did the floor of the Javits Center become a politically correct dystopia upon which the blood of innocent The True (and Therefore Male) Geeks was spilled by legions of Social Justice Warriors, who hooted their feminist victory to the rafters? Well, no. The floor of the Javits Center looked pretty much like the floor of any really large media convention — people wandering about, looking at stuff, wearing and/or admiring costumes and generally having a bunch of geeky fun. Which is to say that as far as I could see the policy didn’t stop anyone from enjoying themselves; it simply gave them assurance that they could enjoy themselves, or get the problem dealt with if someone went out of their way to wreck their fun.

It’s well past time that every large convention had an anti-harassment policy that offers specific examples of what forms harassment can take, and yes, I’m talking to you, San Diego Comic-con. New York Comic Con is run by ReedPOP, one of the largest convention organizations in the world; these are people with an acute sense of what their liability issues would be with regard to their anti-harassment policy. The fact that NYCC, which is the same size as SDCC at this point, in terms of attendance, has no problem offering up examples while SDCC continues to take the public position that doing so would somehow tie their hands to address issues of harassment, points out that SDCC’s position is, to put it politely, nonsense.

There is no penalty in letting attendees know some of what you consider inappropriate behavior — indeed it makes them safer because when examples are offered, they don’t have to question whether they have “really” been harassed, and they don’t have to worry whether the convention will agree with them. Information is power, particularly when some asshole is trying to assert their power over you by making you feel unsafe in a place where the whole point is to enjoy yourself with others who share your enthusiasms.

That SDCC (and Comic-Con International, its parent organization) continue to refuse to offer these examples at this point is confounding. I don’t doubt that Comic-Con does not want harassing behavior at its conventions; I don’t doubt that they would try to stop it if they knew of it. But that’s just it: No one knows what Comic-Con International considers harassing behavior. No one knows if it’s a consistent standard; no one knows if it’s always a judgment call on the part of whoever deals with the particular issues; no one knows if a harassment claim being taken seriously is down to one person’s political opinions, mood, or blood sugar level. We just don’t know, because it’s not spelled out. We don’t even know if they know. And that’s no way to run a convention in 2014 and beyond. San Diego needs to expand its anti-harassment policy. Simple as that.

I’m very pleased New York Comic Con, for its part, has decided to be on the forefront of anti-harassment policies. It’s smart, it makes sense, and it makes me, for one, inclined to come to it again. There are other conventions at this point that I can’t say the same about, and that’s too bad for the both of us.

I’m in Cincinnati on Saturday for Books by the Banks

Also known as the Cincinnati USA Book Festival. I’ll be there from 1pm through 4pm, with an author spotlight session at 2pm in rooms 207/208. I’ll read, answer questions, and juggle flaming sticks. Please note that the “juggle flaming sticks” portion will be contingent on fire code, availability of flammable materials, and me learning how to juggle expertly between now and Saturday. But the reading and answering questions parts are solid.

Books by the Banks is free and open to the public — that means you! — and aside from me there will be over 130 other authors, local, national and international, participating. Come on down and see us. It’ll be fun.

Who Is That Masked Man?

Why, it’s me, who along with Naomi Novik, Kevin Avery, Sarah Maclean, Jeffrey Cranor and Kate Leth (who took the photo), wrote humorous erotic fan fiction of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s Watchmen for the Shipwreck show that took place this evening in Brooklyn. And when the, uh, smoke cleared, my erotic fanfiction from the point of view of Dr. Malcolm Long was judged the best (or worst, depending) in show. I was naturally demure in victory, “demure” here being defined as “jumping up and down on the stage, hooting like a howler monkey.” Which is the usual definition of the term, yes?

I won, but I’m here to tell you it was a squeaker, since every single story was ridiculously funny and good, and the fact that each was performed by Cecil Baldwin of Welcome to Night Vale just made them all that much better. It was, seriously, fantastically fun.

And what does erotic fan fiction of Watchmen, written by John Scalzi, read like? Well, I’m not entirely ready to offer it up here yet, in part because I’m waiting to see if there will be audio/video from the event, and Baldwin’s delivery really makes the story. I will offer up three phrases from my piece, however, which should give you an idea: “quivering, manly love gate,” “deliciously fleshy proboscis,” and, of course, “moist, willing, tangy orifice.”

Oh, yeah. It’s one of those stories. Trust me, you’re sorry you weren’t there. Unless you were there, in which case you’re glad you were.

View From the Hotel Window, 10/6/14

New York! The Big Apple! The City of Sin! And so on and so forth. I have made it here (in several senses of the term), so I guess I can make it anywhere. So that’s settled. And the hotel room I’m in is very nice, too; it even has a kitchenette with a fridge and a working stove. I may have to bake something. I suspect it is bigger than some of my friends’ apartments. I don’t think I will tell them that.

I’m in town for New York Comic Con and for Super Week, starting with the Shipwreck event this evening and continuing on through Friday. My schedule is here. Some of these events are at NYCC, but some are not, so you’ll have a chance to see me even if you don’t head over to Javits. So I hope to see you!

Two Views of a Very Temporary Look

Having never done it before, I was curious what I would look like with just a mustache. The answer:

Strangely like John Goodman!

And of course I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make a genuinely terrible picture of myself, so please to enjoy this, which I call “The Worst Police Booking Photo, Ever”:

Aaaaand now I’m gonna shave this mustache off.

Update, 4pm:

Me (to Krissy, on the phone): Do you want me to wait until you get home to shave it off?

Krissy: No. Shave it off now. And when you’re done, post another picture so I know it’s gone.

There, that’s better.

Aiming for the Market

On his blog, Steven Brust talks about why he doesn’t like being asked for advice on publishing — the answer being that he has his own conflicted relationship to the business of publishing, the fact of which does not necessarily put him in the best of positions to counsel someone else with questions about the commerce side of things.

In the course of things Steven name drops me, noting “John Scalzi, if no one else, provides proof that consciously writing to a market is no hindrance to producing high-quality, entertaining work.” Which is to say that I do something that Steven himself is not terribly comfortable with — essentially, calling my shots in terms of where I’m aiming for in the marketplace, and then swinging to get the ball (or book, in the case) where I called for it go.

Steven’s not wrong. I have and do very consciously look at the marketplace when I’m thinking the books I write. Old Man’s War is the first and most obvious example of this. I wrote it not just because I wanted to write a science fiction novel, but because I wanted to write a science fiction book I could sell — that it, something with enough obvious commercial appeal that a publisher could immediately see the value proposition in publishing the novel and getting it out in the book racks.

OMW, among all the other things it is (and isn’t), is straightforward Heinleinian military science fiction — it’s the science fiction equivalent of classic rock, in other words. It was designed to sell to a publisher, and was designed for that purpose so well that it sold to a publisher without me ever formally submitting it. It was, in other words, a very commercially intentional novel, and it lived up to its intention, for which I am grateful.

In novels and (most) shorter work since, I’ve continued to work in that commercially intentional mode, for several reasons. One, and most obviously, writing is what I do for a living, and I want to write books that sell not just to the people who are already fans (either of the genre or of me), but to other folks as well; the more, the better. Likewise, I think it makes sense to be actively looking at the market — not at what’s hot now (if you can see it, you’ve generally already missed it) but where I think there’s a potential to do interesting things for the future, where they will get noticed. Two, and happily for me, the style of writing in which I am most proficient — clear, transparent prose, snappy dialogue, plot jumping through hoops at a nice clip — is also one that is easy to sell. Three, I not only see the value of such writing, but as a reader I also enjoy it; I’m writing the work I would want to read, in other words.

I do think point three is significant. When I wrote Old Man’s War, I was intentionally addressing what I saw as commercially viable science fiction sub-genre — military science fiction — but I also wrote it on my personal terms, with interplay between characters (including romance and affection), action that was vivid without being gratuitous (or without consequence), and a large portion of humor. I wrote to the market, but I put into the market something I thought was going to be worth reading independent of market positioning — or at least, worth reading to me.

This is where point four (which is really a sub-point of point three) comes into play: in many things, I have reasonably common tastes. I like a good three-minute pop song, I laugh at movies that aren’t good but are good at what they intend to do, I eat a lot of candy and I enjoy a book that puts a value on entertaining me first, everything else as an add on. It’s not the entirety of my tastes, to be sure. But it is a significant portion of my taste, and I don’t feel at all apologetic about it. It helps my aim when it comes to writing things that sell.

(I do think it also was useful that I came to publishing fiction after a decade and a half of professional writing, including writing non-fiction books. It meant that I had a reasonably good understanding of the business end of writing and of freelance work, an unromantic view of writing as a day-to-day job, and that much of the desire for ego gratification that comes with publishing had already been dealt with. This helped with looking at fiction in a practical way from the get-go.)

Which is not to say that my aim is always good, or that people who do not do things as I do are destined to failure. Note that Steven Brust, whose relationship to the business side of publishing is different than mine, is nevertheless a New York Times bestselling author, and there are (I imagine) at least a few authors who write what they want to write, consider the market not at all, and just let other people figure that part out. And, you know what? Good for them. I couldn’t do it. That would drive me crazy. I run the business side of my writing business in a way that I think makes sense for me: With an eye toward the market and commercial prospects. It’s worked pretty well to date.

Today’s Little Bit of Online Wisdom

Originally posted over on Twitter, and posting here for archival purposes.

Redshirts in Korean and Polish

And they are two very different takes on the same book, I would say. Of the Polish one, I’m mildly curious as to how Adam Baldwin got on the cover, not to mention the young lady with the chest plate tattoo; neither of them really seem to be in uniform. I will say that the reviews of the book that I’ve seen in Polish (via Google Translate) pretty much seem to say “okay, that cover, maybe you should ignore that” and that otherwise it’s a good translation of the novel. So, yeah. I’m just going to go with my “the publisher knows their market better than I do” line, here. The Korean cover, on the other hand, I can be unreservedly enthusiastic about, because I think it’s clever and funny and captures a lot of the spirit of the book, and I really like it. And there you have it.