A Baker’s Dozen of Terrible Things I Have Called Ted Cruz

In celebration of his exit from the 2016 presidential race, and by request, here is a more-or-less complete collection of all the horrible ways I’ve described Ted Cruz during the campaign (plus a couple bonus bits from 2013, when Whatever readers awarded him the title of Asshole of the Year, besting other luminaries such as Rob Ford, Justin Bieber, and, yes, Barack Obama).

Ted Cruz is:

  • a malignant teratoma with a law degree
  • a shambling assemblage of skin tabs and ego
  • a gross and despicable avulsion that yet managed to sprout opposable thumbs
  • a jowly gobbet of tubercular phlegm
  • the Platonic ideal of an asshole
  • a necrotic self-regarding blight on the face of American politics
  • an odious fistula that walks the earth in a human skin
  • Newt Gingrich minus the charm or political savvy
  • the final obnoxious form of a college dorm “Devil’s Advocate”
  • a bipedal mound of pig offal that yet manages to form words
  • an overripe pustule of hateful need who deserves to be dropkicked into historical oblivion
  • a political dead man walking

Goddamn, I will miss him. But not enough to want him back. Ever.

Update: It’s been noted I forgot I also called Cruz an “ambulatory cloacal splotch.” Duly noted!

New Books and ARCs, 5/4/16

Another day, another stack of excellent recent and upcoming releases to show off to you. Tell which of these books excites you, down in the comments.

Five Quick Notes on Indiana

Original photo by Gage Skidmore, used under Creative Commons. Click on picture to go to original photo.

1. So on one hand, Ted Cruz, a shambling assemblage of skin tabs and ego, has left the presidential race. That’s good!

2. But on the other hand, Donald Trump, angry racist billionaire, is definitively going to be the GOP nominee for president. That’s very very bad.

3. Dear Republicans: Your party is a raging trash fire of hate, obstructionism and stupidity, most recently evidenced by the fact that Trump is going to be your nominee, and that Cruz, a jowly gobbet of tubercular phlegm, was your second choice. Oh my God, please fix yourselves.

4. But more immediately, inasmuch as you seem unlikely to do that in time to do anything about Trump with respect to him being your nominee, and I would never suggest that you just not vote, let me say these two words to you: Gary Johnson. I mean, I understand most of you gag at the thought of pulling the lever for Hillary Clinton. Fair enough! Johnson’s positions on (most) issues are going to be closer to your own, probably, and this way you also don’t vote to drop a straw-haired ball of dangerously inchoate rage into the White House. Everybody wins! Except Trump, which is the point.

5. Hey, Bernie Sanders won Indiana last night! Good for him. The netted him a total of five delegates, which puts him on track to take the 2016 Democratic nomination from Hillary Clinton, oh, let’s see, let me carry the one here, ah, there we go, never. I think it’s fine for Sanders supporters to keep dreaming, and for Sanders himself to maneuver himself into the discussion of the Democratic platform. I also think it’s fine for Hillary Clinton to start serious prep for dealing with Trump, because really, that’s where we are, and everyone knows it. So let’s stop pretending. Because, holy shit, Trump.

Two New Books in 2016 That Have Me In Them. Well, Three. Actually, Five

As we all know, I don’t have a new novel out this year — although the mass market paperback of The End of All Things is out May 31, hint, hint — but that doesn’t mean I’m not showing up in new books in 2016. Above you’ll see two new books that I’m in, one already out, and the other upcoming. The one that’s already out is The Books That Changed My Life, edited by Bethanne Patrick, in which notable folks (including, uh, me) talk about the books that made a real impact on them. Other folks featured in the book include Margaret Atwood, Rosanne Cash, Dave Eggers, Kate Mulgrew and Al Roker. This is a pretty wide net, folks.

The one that hasn’t come out yet is Mash Up, which is the printed version of the audio anthology Rip-Off! which you may recall came out about three years ago. The audio version did very well — nominated for an Audie Award, whilst Mary Robinette Kowal’s contribution scored a Hugo — so it’s lovely to finally see this anthology in print. And as you can see on the cover, this is a hell of a line up of authors. Mash Up will be out June 7th — also, coincidentally, the release date of the other anthology I’m in this year, Black Tide Rising, which features a story I co-wrote with my pal Dave Klecha. Basically I have a very busy two weeks coming up at the end of May and early June.

So, that’s three books in 2016 so far! Plus my audio-first novella The Dispatcher should be out later this year (with the print version from Subterranean Press to follow after the audio’s exclusive period), plus, speaking of Subterranean, I’ve turned in another book project to them a couple of weeks ago, which should be out later this year. I’ll wait until Subterranean officially announces that before I say anything else about it.

So, to recap:

  • The Books That Changed My Life — already out.
  • Mash Up — out June 7.
  • Black Tide Rising — also out June 7.
  • The Dispatcher — scheduled for this year in audio.
  • Secret SubPress Project — also scheduled for this year (I think!).

And the mass market paperback of The End of All Things, out May 31st.

Wow, for not having anything out in 2016, I sure have a lot of things out in 2016.

New Books and ARCS 5/2/16: Special Baen-apalooza Edition

I got a smidge behind in showing off the new books and ARCs that have come to the Scalzi Compound, so I figure the semi-hiatus would be an excellent time to catch up on this score. To that end, please peruse this very fine stack of books courtesy of Baen Books, all titles that are just recently out or about to be. What looks good to you? Tell me in the comments!

Today is the Day I Figured Out My Wife May Be the Highlander

The first picture here is of Krissy in 1994, when we got engaged; you can see my goofy face cropped halfway off there. The second is from 2007, nine years ago. The third is from 2011, five years ago. The final one is from this weekend, at Penguicon.

Best guesses: Highlander; vampire; has a painting in the attic; deity slumming around on planet Earth just for kicks. I mean, you tell me.

No matter which it is, I’m happy to spend my time with her.

I do not look like I did in 1994. Alas.

May 2016 Semi-Hiatus is Now ON

Get ready for less!

(Although I will probably post a kitten picture when I get home from Penguicon later today. I’m not a monster.)

One quick note: As part of the deal with the semi-hiatus is spending less time here, I’m trimmed back the time entries are open to comments to two days. This means some previously active comment threads here are now closed. I figure most of you will be fine with that. Commenting periods will be back to their usual length in June.

View From a Hotel Window, 4/29/16: Southfield, MI

It has not just a parking lot, but an entire parking garage. And a vaguely Ballard-esque high rise in the background. Don’t forget that.

You guys have a great weekend.

This Picture Was Photoshopped

Specifically, I used Photoshop to remove the light switch on the wall directly above Krissy. Because it ruined the composition, that’s why! Man, Photoshop is handy sometimes.

In other news, I’m off to Penguicon in a couple hours, where I’ll be doing a reading (with Dave Klecha) and a panel and otherwise just, you know, hanging about. Come say hello if you’re there. If you’re not there and you say hello, that’s fine, but I may not hear you. Sorry.

The May Mostly Hiatus

As a heads up for folks:

My May is going to be super busy with things that don’t involve being online, including writing and travel, so that means that I’m planning to spend most of May offline. I’m not closing down Whatever because I’ve scheduled Big Ideas, but content here is likely to be those pieces and the occasional photo of cats and/or sunsets and the even-more-occasional entry with words (one’s likely to happen on my birthday, for example).

Also, and for the same reason, I’m likely to cut back substantially on social media in May. My current plan is to sign on in the evening if at all; we’ll see if I stick to that, because social media is like crack. But that is the plan.

So if things seem a little sparse here in the next month and you don’t otherwise see me online much, you’ll know why. I’m not dead or sick or in hiding. I’m just busy with work in the real world, and sometimes that’s the priority.

Four Things About the Hugos, 4/27/16

First off, gaze upon Chuck Tingle’s latest story, above (and for sale here). That’s kind of awesome.

Second off, I see some people here and elsewhere swearing they’re going to put anything that was on the Sad/Rabid slates or recommendation lists below “No Award” this year. Bluntly, you’ll be foolish if you do this. As I noted in my LA Times piece yesterday, the Puppies this year slated things that were already popular outside their little circles, like, for example, The Sandman: Overture, by Neil Gaiman.

Come on, folks. Does anyone really think Neil Gaiman holds active membership in the Puppy brigades? Or Stephen King? Or Alastair Reynolds (who specifically asked to be dropped from the Puppy lists, and was ignored)? Or Lois McMaster Bujold? Or, for that matter, probably Chuck Tingle? I mean, hell, someone put me on the Sad Puppy recommendation list for a while*, despite the fact I rather publicly dropped out of consideration for awards this year, and the fact that many people who identify as Sad Puppies wouldn’t piss on me if I were on fire.

Don’t give credit for the Puppies slating already popular work and then acting like they got it on the ballot, or for dragooning unwilling and unwitting people onto their slates for their own purposes. That’s essentially victim blaming. Rather, use your common sense when looking at the work and people nominated. The Puppies would be happy if you didn’t do that, mind you. I’m hard pressed to understand why you would oblige them so.

(But then the Puppies win! Yeah, folks, about that: They’re going to proclaim victory no matter what; they did that last year when they got their collective asses handed to them at the Hugo Award ceremony. We totally meant to lose! It validates everything we did! Well, fine, whatever. Personally, I’m going to ask what I always ask: Is this work worth giving a Hugo to? That’s a question that has an answer irrespective of any Puppy “strategy.”)

Third off, and on the subject of victim blaming, I do see a number of people exclaiming that because the Puppies have stuffed ballot boxes yet again, it’s the Hugos that suck and are horrible, etc. Folks, no. The Hugos are a nice fan/industry award, and didn’t do anything to deserve the nonsense that’s happening to them, except to have an exploitable flaw in the nominating process that previously no one really exploited because no one wanted to be that asshole. The people who are currently exploiting that flaw in the process are the ones who suck and are horrible, and the ones being assholes. They’re targeting the Hugos because the Hugos don’t actually suck or are horrible, and because they know that doing so hurts other people, and they like that, because, again, they’re assholes.

So, please, differentiate between the two, would you? It’s actually kind of important to make that distinction. And as a bonus, making the distinction gives at least some honor to the people who are working behind the scenes of the Hugos, this year and last year, who have had to deal with malignant trolls fucking with a thing they love. Giving them that tiny bit of honor would be nice, too.

Fourth off, one of the finalists for Best Short Story, Thomas May, who was on the Rabid Puppy slate, has left the ballot, for admirable reasons. All respect to him for a difficult decision. I don’t believe this should be a signal for folks to hint to other finalists that they should follow his example, for reasons I outline above, i.e., this year’s slates were filled with people and work the Puppies put in for their own strategic ends, and are essentially blameless for an association that is unintended and/or unwanted. If you’ve got a mind to pester people about this, please consider not. Let them do as they will, just as you do what you will when it comes time to vote.

Thanks.

(* Yes, I know the Sad Puppy recommendation list was open to all to put things on it. I also suspect, perhaps uncharitably, that the Puppies know their own and used the recommendation lists with that fact in mind. This is why I suspect I wouldn’t have gotten many votes out of that “recommendation” in any event. This is also why I’m not entirely convinced it wasn’t used for slate-y purposes (and a further reason why I’m not inclined to hold a work being on that recommendation list against it). That said, and as with last year, the Sad Puppies were a sideshow to the Rabids, who straight up slated.

I also recognize that many Sad Puppies don’t like being conflated with Rabid Puppies, but, you know, it was the Sads that brought the Rabids to the party, and I expect there’s still sufficient overlap in goals and strategy to tie them together, so, yeah, color me not entirely convinced. If the Sads want to really differentiate themselves, a change in branding would be the very smallest start.

With all that said: Be aware my point of view re: the Puppies also comes from being a direct target of their ire for several years running. Your mileage may vary.)

Dear Cruz, Kasich and Sanders: Guys, It’s Over

I just wrote a much longer piece going over last nights results in detail, but other than the line where I called Ted Cruz “a malignant teratoma with a law degree” it was just boring as hell, so, here’s the shorter version:

Hey! Cruz! Kasich! Sanders! You got no shot! Let it go!

They won’t, of course. They all think they’re going to get something at their conventions (Cruz and Kasich: A presidential nomination that they won’t get and which would be toxic they moment they pried it from Trump even if they could; Sanders, rather more reasonably: A seat at the table when it comes to strategy), so I expect they’ll keep trudging along. But the rest of us don’t have to pretend that these three aren’t in garbage time, as far as their presidential chances go, do we? The rest of us don’t have to pretend they’re doing anything other than “playing for pride” at this point, right?

Okay, good.

My only real regret with respect to any of these three is that Cruz didn’t emerge as a stronger presidential contender this cycle, because this means he’ll be under the delusion that he’s got a shot in 2020. I mean, on one hand, okay, that’d likely give Clinton her second term? But, oy, Cruz all over the TV, again. For months. Just shoot me into space, already.

Anyway: Come on, guys. Wrap it up. It’s time.

 

Quick 2016 Hugo Finalist Thoughts (With a Link to Even More Hugo Thoughts)

Thoughts on this year’s Hugo finalists (the list of which you can find here):

* First, as part of my new gig at the Los Angeles Times, I wrote an analysis of this year’s ballot there, so head on over there if you want to see it (Note it’s geared toward a general audience, so there a lot of explanatory stuff in there folks here will likely already know). As I’ve already written substantially on the Hugos there, what I write here will be brief.

* Overall, the nominations in several categories look pretty decent to me – Best Novel is particularly not bad at all! At least a couple of categories are a tiresome shitshow, however, thanks to the Puppies, again.

* Which we knew might happen again, remember? Fixing the slating issue was a two-year process. This is year two. Keep working on it, folks.

* The Puppies are once again trying to troll a bunch of people (the Best Related Category is one particularly obvious troll) and while I don’t mean to downplay the basic craptasticness of their actions, I’m finding it all that difficult to get worked up about it. I mean, I know the Puppies are hoping for outrage? Again? But as noted, we’ve seen this act before, and this time it’s just boring. Yes, yes, Puppies. You’re still sad little bigoted assholes screaming for attention. Got it, thanks.

Bear in mind I’m a direct target for their nonsense; at least two of the finalist works go after me in one way or another. I’m very specifically someone they’re trying to get worked up (and to tear down). And yet I just can’t manage it. I’m pretty much over the Puppies. There’s only so many times a toddler can throw a tantrum before you just shrug. You still have to clean up after the toddler, mind you. But you don’t have to let the toddler dictate the terms. Pity these particular toddlers are grown humans.

Aaaand that’s about all the energy I’m willing to expend on the Puppies this year: A tiny bit of pity, and then consideration of the things on the finalist ballot worth my time – which, fortunately, there are several, and would have been no matter what the Pups did.

Scammers and Fixed Pots

Lots of news in the last couple of weeks about Amazon Kindle Unlimited scammers, who are creating 3,000-page books filled with mostly garbage because that’s what lets them take advantage of the way Amazon pays authors participating in the KU scheme: Amazon tracks the last page synced and pays out by how far into the book someone’s gone (as opposed to read).

This is bad news for actual authors with actual books, because a) actual books are generally much smaller than three thousand pages, and b) Amazon doesn’t pay a set rate per page — it defines a KU “pot” of money for each month and then pays out to authors by the number of pages they register readers as having gotten through, as a proportion of total pages read on the service that month. So if (purely as an example) Amazon defines the payout pot for KU as $1 million for a month, then all the authors participating have to split that $1 million — and the scam artist with the fake 3,000-page book is going to get a larger chunk of that $1 million than the actual author with a 300-page book.

Bear in mind that no matter what compensatory scheme Amazon does for its KU system, someone is going to find a way to maximize it. Before the current “pages read” scheme, Amazon paid out when a certain percentage of a book was gone through, which drove authors to create very short books that would hit their payout percentage with just a couple of page flips. It was this gaming, presumably, that caused Amazon to change how it did its payout. If and when Amazon changes its payout scheme (again), people will find out how to game the system under the new rules. It’s what happens.

(Nor is adjusting one’s work to take advantage of the market a problem; publishers have always done this. Is the money is cheap paperbacks? They will make cheap paperbacks. Is the money in hardcovers? They’ll make hardcovers. What, novellas are the next big thing? They’ll all make novellas! Likewise, if Amazon is saying to self-pubbed authors (and, by extension, scammers) “[X] is the way we decide to pay you,” then it’s rational to do [X].)

The problem with the Kindle Unlimited scammers isn’t really the compensatory triggers of KU or the fact that everyone, legit author or otherwise, is looking for the way to squeeze as much money as possible from it. The problem is: who bears the immediate economic brunt of the scammers taking advantage of whatever scheme Amazon decides upon? Well, it’s not Amazon, that’s for sure, since its financial exposure is only what it wants to pay out on a monthly basis; scammers in the system or no, Amazon only pays what Amazon wants to pay. The readers also get off lightly; their economic exposure is only they flat fee they pay to access KU.

So that leaves the actual authors, whose share of a fixed amount of money is being diluted by bad actors who see how the system can be gamed and are cheerfully gaming it as fast as they can. It is the authors’ problem because Amazon doesn’t pay out like it has to pay out for printed books, where each unit sold has a contractually-defined royalty that is independent of any other book or author and how well they are selling. Again, Amazon pays from a pot it defines and controls and which is limited; in effect pitting authors against each other, and all of them against the scammers. In this case the scammers are winning because it takes almost no time to create a scam book, assign fake accounts to “read” it, and profit; meanwhile writing real books actual people would invest their time in is still the same time-intensive effort it always was.

Is this fair? Well, life’s not fair, and in business (which this is) you get what you contractually agree to. Kindle Unlimited authors presumably know that they are only going to get what Amazon is willing to give them for their participation; they also presumably know that their marketplace is “fair,” with regard to scammers, to the extent that Amazon wants to make it so; they also presumably know that their ability to force Amazon to do anything to deal with scammers is exceptionally limited because the KU agreement privileges Amazon over individual KU participants to an extraordinary degree. KU participants, by participating, have agreed to let Amazon shift the financial risk over to them.

(Well, some of them. It’s my understanding that there is a tranche of authors — generally hugely best-selling, generally not self-published — whose participation in KU is through other deals where their compensation is not tied into an Amazon-defined pot. Good for them! And another reminder of the issue of “fair” in publishing — nothing’s fair, everything is what you agree to in contracts.)

That being said, if Amazon doesn’t eventually deal with the scammers, then it will become their problem: Authors, quite reasonably, won’t want to participate if scammers are taking money that should be going to them, and readers won’t see the value of the KU subscription if authors stay off the service. Humans are bad-experience avoidant, and it doesn’t take many bad experiences to keep people away. It’s in Amazon’s best interest to fix this. Eventually. I’m pretty sure it will.

But only to a point. Amazon is very very very unlikely to ever make Kindle Unlimited a scheme that doesn’t rely on a fixed payout, defined by Amazon itself. And that is why, at the end of it, KU (and, to be clear, other subscription services with a service-defined payout pot) will always disadvantage authors in terms of how much they can make, and why these authors will always suffer first and foremost from scammers — because there’s only so much money for authors in the scheme, and that’s the money scammers are taking. There will always be scammers and people who will game the system; so as long as the KU scheme pays out from a fixed pot, authors participating in it will always be the most vulnerable to their actions.

Amazon should deal with its KU scammers. It should also compensate KU authors for their work independent of how other authors are doing, or what they are doing, or what scammers are doing. The first of these is rather more likely than the others. If you’re an author participating in Kindle Unlimited, know what you’re getting into, and the fact that it’s you whose money is on the line when the scammers game the system.

Puffball, 4/24/16

I’m occasionally reminded that I don’t know the name of every plant around my house. This is an example: I call this one the “puffball shrub,” because, well, here’s a puffball. I’m sure someone has told me what kind of plant this is. It’s just that the information rolled out of my head after they told me. Nevertheless, it is pretty. So here you go. Have a puffball.

View From a Hotel Window, 4/22/16: Columbus

Columbus has clouds!

My event in Westerville went well, and now I’m kicking back in my hotel room here in Columbus, where tomorrow I’m a featured author at the Ohioana Book Festival. If you’re in the area, come on down. It will be lovely to see you. If you’re not in the area, well, enjoy the clouds in the picture.

Off to Westerville and Columbus

I’m heading east today, slightly, to participate in two events: Today, at 1:30 pm. I’m appearing at the Westerville Public Library for a reading and a signing. I’ll be reading not-yet-published material, so if you want new stuff from me, that’s where to go. Then tomorrow I’m at the Ohioana Book Festival all day, where I will be doing a panel and signing books. Come see me at either! Or both! Both are entirely free to the public. See you there!