Size Matters Not

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Self Promotion, on “Dear Veronica”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kitten Update, 11/10/15

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

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

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

Er, probably.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What books are available?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Those of You Asking About Zeus

One, he’s perfectly fine, merely not at the center of my public discussion of cats in the last week as he neither a) a kitten, b) a newly-passed on senior cat. You should be aware that Zeus has been perfectly fine not being the center of media attention in the last several days, as he is a cat and has not the slightest idea either that I write about my cats here, or that any of you have any idea who he is. But he is alive and well and doing what he does.

Two, he seems to be aware that that Lopsided Cat is gone. He saw his friend in his last few days and appeared to grok that not was well; he did not see Lopsided Cat after we brought him back from the vet and before we buried him (he was out of the house at the time), but seems to note the absence, in the way pets do (Daisy saw Lopsided Cat as we buried him and at least appeared to have some idea of what was going on). He seems to be carrying on all right. Zeus and Lopsided Cat were close, but Zeus and Daisy are closer, and I suspect Zeus will miss Daisy most when she’s gone.

Three, Zeus is aware of the kittens and as a somewhat territorial male cat (“somewhat” because he’s been snipped) is less than thoroughly pleased at the turn of events, first because the kittens are mostly sequestered to my office right now, i.e., his space — he likes to nap on my chair — and second because pets are rarely thrilled with change anyway. Every time Zeus sees the kittens, his response is basically to give a look that says “the fuck are those,” and then stalk off. Now, as it happens, Lopsided Cat and Ghlaghghee had exactly the same reaction to him when he arrived, nearly eight years ago now. So in the long run I suspect things will be fine.

It’s mildly weird to think of Zeus as the senior cat now, as I remember his arrival and his subsequent rather extended adolescent phase; it’s really only in the last couple of years that it’s sunk in that he’s a fully adult cat. But he’s eight years old now, which are prime adult years for a cat. We weren’t expecting him to be the senior cat at the Scalzi Compound, but now he is — senior pet, in fact, as his tenure with us outdates Daisy’s by a couple of years. I think he’ll do well in the role.

Lopsided Cat Followup

A quick note of thanks to everyone who passed along their condolences with regard to Lopsided Cat yesterday; they were and are appreciated. It is sort of remarkable to me how much grief can well up when a pet dies, until one remembers that they are in fact people, who just happen not to be human. I don’t think of my pets as my children (at least, not once they are done being kittens or puppies), but they are family members, and it’s right to mourn their passing and miss them when they go. Your good thoughts and words in that respect helped.

For those of you wondering where he’ll spend his eternity, it’s here:

That’s the maple tree in the backyard, under which Ghlaghghee is also buried. Lopsided Cat and Ghlaghghee arrived here within a couple months of each other and we long suspected they might have been related (Lopsided Cat had markings very similar to Ghlaghghee’s mother, who lived next door. They would have been separate litters), so it seemed appropriate that they would be next to each other there. As we did with Ghlaghghee, the site is currently marked by a cairn of wood logs (which also solves the practical purpose of making it difficult for local dogs/coyotes/etc to dig up remains); we’ll replace those with a marker probably in the spring. It’s a nice place to have a rest, eternal or otherwise, and it will be good to have him here with us.

People have made the observation that it must help to have two new kittens in the house, or that possibly the timing of their arrival was something more than coincidental. My feeling about it is that it really was coincidental, but coincidence or not, having them here indeed makes the passing slightly easier to deal with. We lost two cats this year; we have two new cats to keep us company, and both of the kittens are exhibiting their own personalities and quirks already. Thing One and Thing Two (again, temporary names, although if Athena waits too much longer with the new names it may be too late) aren’t replacements for Ghlaghghee and Lopsided Cat, in the sense of it would be foolish to expect them to be like or have personalities like those two. It is fun to see them become who they are. I’m glad and grateful they are here.

In its way the last week is a bit of a microcosm of life, with pets as the players: People come into your life, people go out of it. You miss the ones that go, and remember them. You welcome the ones that come in, and try to make their stay in it worth the memory. Life goes on, and it is good. You get to be part of it, too.

And there it is.

No, I Don’t Have a Second Gig as a Set Dresser

A couple of people on Twitter alerted me to this name in the credits of Aziz Ansari’s new Netflix series, Master of None:

They also wondered (I assume, jokingly) whether I had gotten myself a new side gig.

So, for the avoidance of doubt: No, that John Scalzi is not me, nor is he, as far as I know, any relation of mine. There are other John Scalzis in the world, after all, including a meteorologist in Florida and a former boxer in Pennsylvania, and this fine fellow (and there’s, uh, also, my dad). Set dresser John Scalzi is, I assume, a new one (well, a new one to my radar) and worked as a set dresser on a couple of feature films before Master of None.

(Update: In fact, I do know this John Scalzi! He the one in the “fine fellow” link above. His wife Nancy fills in the details in the comments.)

In any event: Congrats, John Scalzi, who is not me, for the fine new gig. It’s always nice to see the John Scalzis of the world doing well.

Lopsided Cat, 2000 – 2015

This is the first picture I ever took of Lopsided Cat, back in April of 2003. He came to us in an interesting way: Krissy and Athena were working in the garden (well, Krissy was working, Athena, age four, was “helping”), and Lopsided Cat emerged out of the trees at the property line and made a beeline to Athena. When Athena bent down to pet this friendly, strange cat, he hopped onto her back. And just like that, he was home.

Well, part-time at first. I suspect Lopsided Cat, who appeared well-fed and who was neutered, was someone else’s cat too, possibly one of our neighbors to the east. Alternately, as happened with Zeus, someone abandoned him, and Lopsided Cat, an able hunter, had been taking care of himself until he found himself an easier situation. But at some point he decided he liked us and made us his permanent base of operations. We were fine with that because he was friendly and affectionate, unlike our then-current cat Rex, who liked me but was a jerk with everyone else.

Lopsided Cat’s name came from the fact that he usually had his head at a tilt, which was visually endearing but was rooted in an actual malady — when he came to us he had a rather substantial infestation of ear mites (this alone suggests he might have been abandoned), and this apparently caused him to tilt his head a lot. We got the ear mites cleaned out and otherwise got him shots and so on, but he never stopped tilting his head. When he was a part-time resident, I called him “that lopsided cat.” When he came on-staff full time, the name stuck. It suited him.

Lopsided Cat came to live with us, but he was and remained through his life a mostly outdoor cat. He would come in to eat and sleep and have occasional pettings, but when he was done with all that he let you know that he was ready to outside with a meow loud and insistent enough to cut through concrete. I’ve read that cats meow in a vocal range similar to that of human infants, because that’s what makes adult humans get up and make the problem stop. I’m willing to believe it because I would be dead asleep, and Lopsided Cat would meow on the porch on the other side of the front door, down a flight of stairs, and I would be awake instantly and up out of bed before I had time to think about it. I suspect he was pretty proud at how well he trained his human.

He earned his keep and then some. I’ve noted before that our cats are not just pets but are working animals — we have agricultural fields on three sides of us and the creatures that live in the fields like to migrate into the house, particularly when the weather starts getting cooler. The cats kept that from happening, Lopsided Cat most of all. He was an avid hunter, and at times would do it with… well, style might be the word for it. One morning I went into the garage and found two dead rabbits, symmetrically arranged facing each other, paws up as if praying for their lives, on the mat by the door, and Lopsided Cat sitting there, looking up at me. My immediate thought was holy shit, it’s a gangland killing.

For all that, he was not a standoffish cat. He liked to be petted — although not in front of the other cats, which is a thing I found very amusing — and he was never skittish with the other animals, including the dogs, both of which during his tenure, Kodi and Daisy, outweighed and outsized him by a significant factor. He was cordial if not overly friendly with both. His closest animal relationship was with Zeus, whom he initially disliked but eventually took to engaging in mutual grooming behavior with. This made me joke that he and Zeus were gay, which, I should note, was perfectly fine with me if they were.

Of all the cats we’ve had, Lopsided Cat struck me as the most Platonically ideal. Ghlaghghee was a princess, Zeus was a hyper bundle, Rex was a curmudgeon, but Lopsided Cat was a cat: He ate and slept and hunted and accepted tribute from humans in the form of petting and that’s what he was. Of all the cats I’ve had, I expect he was the least smart; he never did anything that made me think wow, that was actually pretty clever, which every other cat I’ve ever had has done at least once. But then he never had to. This was a creature who was perfectly and utterly at peace with who he was: A cat. You could not ask for a better one.

The other evening — on the same day as we picked out our new kittens, currently named Thing One and Thing Two — Krissy found Lopsided Cat in the garage, looking rather disheveled and dazed. He had slobber on him, which suggested he’d been in a fight with a local dog, but didn’t have any bite or claw marks on him, which suggested that the fight had been lopsided in favor of the cat. Nevertheless we took him to the vet to see if there were any broken bones (there weren’t) or anything dislocated (again, no). The vet kept him overnight, then gave him painkillers and let me take him home, and I thought that would be the end of it.

It wasn’t. Lopsided Cat, always a very active animal, didn’t want to move and didn’t want to eat or drink. We waited to see if he would get better and when he didn’t I took him back to the vet for some more x-rays and other tests. Our vet, this time looking for things other than broken or dislocated bones, discovered that our cat had suffered a hernia, probably from the fight. That explained why he didn’t want to move or eat. She also discovered that Lopsided Cat was suffering from kidney failure — and that was something that was independent of the fight, likely brought about from the fact that Lopsided Cat, who was at least a couple of years old when he joined up with us, was simply just now old.

So here was the thing: Our vet could operate on the hernia, but Lopsided Cat’s recovery was not assured to be smooth because of his age, and the fact of the matter was that no matter what, the state of his kidneys meant that the time he had left with us was short. The cat we knew and loved was active and spent most of his time outdoors. The cat we would have left to us would be invalid and failing. We had to ask ourselves whether Lopsided Cat would be happy not being the cat he had always been.

Each of us, Athena and Krissy and I, knew the answer to that. So yesterday all of us went to the vet’s office to say goodbye to him. Then, when that was done, we brought him home to bury him.

Which, I have to be honest, I never thought we would be able to do. Lopsided Cat came to us out of the trees, unexpected. He was an outdoor cat, and one that was never shy of a hunt or of a fight. For those reasons, I fully expected that one day he would simply go out on his daily rounds… and that would be that. We would wait, and wait, and wonder and be concerned and then after a month or two we would have to accept that the cat who came out of trees had gone back into them, forever, and that we would never get to give him our farewells and let him know he loved him.

But he didn’t do that. In the end, he went out on his daily rounds… and then he came back. Because in the end he knew where his home was. It was with us. He came back to us, and we got to give him our farewells and let him know we loved him. And then we got to bring him home one last time, to be with us forever.

I’m so glad he came home.

New Books and ARCs, 11/6/15

With extra added kitten!

Which titles look intriguing to you? Let me know in the comments.

(Kitten not included.)

Kitten Update, 11/6/15

Don’t pretend like you don’t want this. 

Thing One, enjoying some books.

Thing Two, practicing an “I’m totally innocent!” look.

Daisy and Thing One. Check out the size differential there. Yes, clearly, they have met. In fact:

Yup. They’re going to get along just fine.

Kitten Update, 11/5/15

Because I know what you really want.

Kitten One conquers the Evil Sock of Evil.

Meanwhile, Thing Two takes on both the Banjolele of Not-Niceness, and the Feather Duster Streamer of Ill Repute. This one ended in a draw.

The Things, totes adorbs.

Incidentally, if you want to experience full on kitten overload, I’ve made a Flickr album of the Things, here. Enjoy.

Post-Election Day Thoughts, 2015

Here in Ohio, aside from some local races, the only things I had on my ballot to vote for were state initiatives. Here’s how I voted:

Issue One: This one changed the state redistricting process so that it’s handled by a non-partisan committee rather than by whoever’s in the majority in the state government when redistricting comes along. Well, I’m a fan of not gerrymandering the shit out of districts for political gain, so I voted for it. So did 71% of the voters, so good for us. Note well, however: the Federal redistricting is still in the hands of the state legislature.

Issue Two: This issue was designed to keep people who are proposing state initiatives from gaining a monopoly, oligopoly, or cartel through said initiative. This issue was a direct response to Issue Three, which was on the ballot as well. I think this is a perfectly reasonable thing, and I voted for it. So did 52% of Ohio voters, so it passed. Again, good for us.

Issue Three: This would have legalized marijuana use for medical and recreational use, but also would have created a cartel of producers who would be the only ones authorized to grow pot in Ohio. Basically, a bunch of rich jerks were trying to corner the pot market in the state by appealing to people’s desire to toke up. It didn’t work; 64% of the voters turned it down, including me. I’m not against the legalization of pot generally, but I was against this. That was some bullshit right here.

Aside from the Ohio issues, the other major election event I was paying attention to was the Kentucky governor’s race, because my pal Drew Curtis — who I supported both as a friend and through campaign contributions — was running for the job as an independent. He didn’t win — he got 3.7% of the vote, but neither was he a spoiler for the other guy who lost, Democrat Jack Conway, who garnered 43.8% of the vote. Add up their totals and it’s still less than what Republican Matt Blevin ended up getting (Drew, I know, believes he drew votes off both of them, which, if true, makes him even less of a spoiler). I’m not especially impressed with Kentucky’s choice for Governor, as Blevin seems like a real piece of work. But he’s not my governor, thank goodness (mine is John Kasich, who wasn’t my first pick, to be clear, but is what passes for a moderate in the GOP these days, i.e., he’s not entirely divorced from reality — and his Democratic opponent in the election was a real fuck-up, so, uh, yeah).

In Ohio, roughly 3 million people voted, out of a voter base of about 7.8 million, so that’s about 39%, which is an average off-year turnout; for comparison, 70% of registered voters showed up in 2012, when we elected a president. It does make me wonder what the hell the people not voting every chance they get are thinking.

Generally speaking nationwide this particular election looks to have been good for conservatives/GOP and less so for Democrats/progressives, which is SOP for election days where there’s not someone running for president. Note to progressives and/or Democrats: Maybe, and I’m just spitballing here, you should think of going out and voting every single election day. Try it! It’s kooky fun! Also — another wacky idea! — you might think about trying to actually build local and state organizations that aren’t fumbly and get walked over by the GOP machine on those levels. Rumor is, there is actual government and law going on at that level! And you can’t expect a Democrat to win the White House every single time. Just putting that out there for your consideration.

All that said, for me, in Ohio, this election day went pretty much exactly how I wanted it to. I can’t complain.

Kitten Update, 11/4/15

Because we all need more adorable in our life. 

Thing One.

Thing Two.

Thing One and Thing Two, posing as if for a formal portrait.

Thing Two meeting Lopsided Cat, very briefly. It went reasonably well. It may have helped that Lopsided Cat is still maybe a little stoned.

People have been asking if/suggesting that the names “Thing One” and “Thing Two” be made permanent. This will be up to Athena, who has been assigned the naming role. So far it does not appear she’s terribly enamored of the Thing One/Thing Two names, so we’ll see what she comes up with.

The other thing we learned, from the owner of the kittens’ mother: The kittens are eight weeks old. This is good, because they have fleas, and the flea treatment I have is not for kittens six weeks and below. We’ve been using a flea comb on both assiduously in the meantime and it seems to be doing the job. Largely keeping them in one part of the house (my office) also helps. No, I haven’t picked up any fleas. In any event, flea treatments for all the pets will happen in relatively short order.

In Other Cat News

Here’s Lopsided Cat in a cat carrier, looking very mellow. He looks mellow because he’s stoned. He’s stoned because he just overnighted at the vet’s, where we booked him a room after we found him in the garage covered in detritus and drool, limping and looking like he’d been in a hell of a fight. We were worried he might have had a broken leg; the vet was worried he might have a dislocated hip.

As it turns out, he was perfectly fine — at worst, a little muscle soreness. He was definitely in a fight of some sort, but there was no fight damage or puncture wounds; the drool was the worst of it. He was apparently aggressively gummed. Which I expect means he beat the crap out of some neighborhood dog who thought it might be funny to go after a cat. We’ll have to ask around.

Be that as it may, it was an anxious moment or two there. Happy to say Lopsided Cat is still a badass. And, at the moment, a badass who is just so damn high.

Kitten Update 11/3/15

They’re adorably all kittened out here, probably because earlier they had round two of their cat fight:

That leaves things all tied up. Will there be a tie-breaker? Stay tuned!


“The End of All Things” an Opening Round Nominee for the Goodreads Choice Awards

In the science fiction category, which should be obvious, and kind of nice. It’s there along with other excellent books from fine authors, as you can see above. It’s always nice to be nominated for this particular award, and last year in this category my book Lock In came in second, rather distantly behind The Martian, which was having a great year (just like it is this year, too. It’s nice to be Andy Weir right about now).

As always, my suggestion to you when it comes to voting is: Vote for the book you like, in this and any other category. Additionally, with this particular award, if the book you like isn’t on this initial list of fifteen for this round, you can write it in. Write-in nominees have made the second around of this award before, so it’s worth making the effort if you are so moved.

Here’s the link to the science fiction category. Happy voting!

Your Kitten Pictures, 11/2/15

Don’t say I never do anything for you. 

Thing One, among the cords (and yes, I’m actively discouraging chewing).

Thing Two, mid grooming.

The two both seem to be adjusting well to life at the Scalzi Compound. I’m happy to say that both also took to the litter box with alacrity, so that’s one less worry. The dog has met them from the other side of a baby gate and wants to snuffle the heck out of their little heads, which neither Thing One nor Thing Two seems particularly keen on at the moment. Neither Zeus nor Lopsided Cat has made their acquaintance yet. I figure that will come in the next couple of days, when one or both decides to come upstairs for whatever reason.

There is much scampering.

And yes, you will be getting a lot of kitten pictures in the foreseeable future, here and on Twitter (and on Facebook, if you’re following me there). Don’t act like you didn’t know this would happen.

No, the Kids Aren’t Reading the Classics and Why Would They

Writer Jason Sanford kicked a small hornet’s nest earlier today when he discussed “the fossilization of science fiction,” as he called it, and noted that today’s kids who are getting into science fiction are doing it without “Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein and Tolkien.” This is apparently causing a moderate bit of angina in some quarters.

I think Sanford is almost entirely correct (the small quibble being that I suspect Tolkien is still common currency, thanks to recent films and video games), nor does this personally come as any particular shock. I wrote last year about the fact my daughter was notably resistant to Heinlein’s charms, not to mention the charms of other writers who I enjoyed when I was her age… thirty years ago. She has her own set of writers she loves and follows, as she should. As do all the kids her age who read.

The surprise to me is not that today’s kids have their own set of favorite authors, in genre and out of it; the surprise to me is honestly that anyone else is surprised by this. As a practical matter, classic science fiction isn’t selling where today’s kids are buying (or where they are being bought for), namely, in the YA section of the book store. See for yourself: Walk into your local bookstore, head to the YA racks and try to find a science fiction or fantasy-themed book that more than fifteen years old. It’ll be a rough assignment. YA has a high audience turnover rate — kids keep aging out of the demo, don’t you know — and the new kids want their own books. The older books you’ll see tend to be a) ones assigned by schools, b) ones that had movies made from them.

Mind you, generally speaking, book stores stock newer books anyway; book stores, like other entertainment venues, rely on novelty (which in our line of work is called “front list”) to get people through the doors. If you’re doing well as an author, some of your backlist is on the shelf, too. But the shelf in a physical bookstore is only so long. These days, being someone who has been in a lot of bookstores recently, I note the shelf in science fiction and fantasy is mostly skewed to living, working authors, most notably their last couple of books. Some classic (i.e., now dead) authors are there but usually represented by two or three books rather than an extensive backlist.

Which is as it should be. All love to Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov, et al., but they’re dead now. They don’t need the money from readers; living authors do. Moreover, Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov, et al have been dead on average two to three decades and their best known work is half a century old. No matter how brilliant they were or how foundational they were to the genre, they’re going to be dated. None of the futures of Heinlein , as just one example, resemble a future that begins from today; they branch off from the 50s or 60s. Readers (in general) don’t want to have to go backwards a half century in order to move forward again.

Certainly you can’t expect new readers to the genre, including young readers, to backshift several decades — or, well, you can, but it would have the same effect as suggesting to a teenager today that if they want to see a movie about people their age, they should watch The Blackboard Jungle. Sure, it’s fine movie, and an important one. It’s just not especially relevant to the teenager of today. It wasn’t made for them, in any event. It was made for their grandparents.

Again, I’m not sure why it comes as a surprise to anyone that people might want entertainment aimed at them, which includes entertainment written by living people with a sense of what’s going on in contemporary culture. Most people aren’t approaching the genre as a survey course. They’re approaching it to be amused. And if they are approaching is as a survey course, then the good news is that it’s not actually that hard to find many if not most of the classics. There is infinite shelf space online, and you don’t have to sell that many copies of an ebook to remain in print. It’s there if you want it.

But — again — it’s okay if you don’t. I don’t expect new readers of the genre today to read much Heinlein or Clarke or Asimov. 60 years from now, and presuming I’m dead, I don’t expect them to read much of me, or Al Reynolds or Ann Leckie, either (to name just two other contemporary SF writers). They’ll be reading their authors, mostly. I hope they’ll enjoy them.