Category Archives: Uncategorized

This Year’s Lenten Observance in Review

For Lent, I gave up ego searching, i.e., checking Google and other places to see if people were talking about me, and if so, what it was they were saying. I thought giving it up would be difficult, but after the first couple of days, it was actually really no problem at all — although I will admit that it probably helped that I removed my search bookmarks, and likewise the search for un-@-ed references to my name on Twitter, so that if I wanted to do a search, I would have to type it in manually. Seriously, who has time for that.

As I said, I thought I would miss it, and I was really surprised to find out that I don’t. Not knowing what everyone else in the online world was thinking of me at any particular moment was… surprisingly restful. Not knowing also did not materially change my life in any substantial way as far as I can tell.

Now that Easter is here, I can start ego surfing again, but I don’t think I’m going to — or at the very least don’t plan to do it with any regularity. I think I’ve reached a point in my life where I just don’t really care what the Internet thinks of me. Scratch that: I think I reached that point a while back, and I was just clicking on the searches out of habit. Stopping for Lent gave me a nice long time to break that, and now I don’t see what I would want to go back. Thanks, Lent!

(Also: Happy Easter, folks.)

A Note About the Hugo Nominations This Year

It is:

1. Yes, I’ve seen the slate. The slate shows up even in Australia! And I woke up early because I crashed from exhaustion last night before 7pm. Finishing a book takes it out of you.

2. I’m very pleased for the several friends and/or writers who are on the ballot this year. This includes everyone in the Best Novel category, all of whom I consider friends, and any of whom I would be happy to see take home a rocket this year. And as always, I congratulate all the nominees for the Hugo and the Campbell. It’s fun to be nominated, and nice to get recognition. I’ll be voting.

3. This year I’ll do what I always do when voting for the Hugos, which is to rank the nominees every category according to how I think they (and/or their particular works in question) deserve to ranked. Preferential balloting is a useful thing. I will be reading quite a lot.

4. If, in the fullness of careful consideration, I come to believe certain nominees in a category do not merit being on the ballot at all, then I will do two things:

One, I will leave those nominees off my final ballot. If they’re not on my ballot, they can’t be ranked.

Two, after ranking the nominees I do believe deserve to be on the ballot, I will use the “No Award” option to signal that I would prefer that no Hugo be awarded, rather than to give it to any of the remaining nominees. Like so:

HUGO FOR BEST USE OF YOGURT

1. Deserving nominee #1
2. Deserving nominee #2
3. NO AWARD

And thus undeserving nominees number 3, 4 and 5 receive no benefit from being on the ballot, and my preference for no award to be given to those people/works I deem unworthy of the award in that category is registered.

5. And yes, in fact, “No Award” can be placed first in a Hugo category. It has done so several times in the history of the award, when the voters for the Hugo Award decided that nothing deserved to take home the rocket. Voting “No Award” at the top of your ballot is not a new thing; it’s a perfectly allowed and legitimate way to register one’s opinion of what’s available in a Hugo category.

6. This year in particular there are going to be questions about whether some nominators more or less blindly voted a slate of candidates to make a statement, rather than voting their own personal set of preferences (if they had personal preferences) at all. My thought about that is what it always is: It’s done. If the rules of voting were followed, then game on.

I also think it’s worth remembering that not everyone who was placed on a slate (or had works placed on a slate) asked to be on the slate, or necessarily supports the intention behind a slate or the people who created it. Another way to make this point: Even people you might think are assholes can have decent taste from time to time. I’m not inclined to punish creators strictly on the basis of who has nominated them, or why.

7. That said, when a slate of nominees is offered whose very title explictly carries in it a desire to vex and annoy other people, it’s legitimate for people to ask whether what’s been nominated on the slate has been placed there solely on the basis of quality. It’s also legitimate for people to decide that in general, slates of nominations are not something they’re comfortable with, or wish to support. There is no rule that disallows nominating for the Hugos from a slate; there’s also no rule that disallows Hugo voters from then registering their displeasure that these slates exist.

I also think it’s okay to penalize graceless award grasping by people who clearly despise the Hugo and what they believe it represents, and yet so very desperately crave the legitimacy they believe the award will confer to them. Therapy is the answer there, not a literary award.

The good news, for me, at least, is that it’s generally obvious in the reading what’s on the ballot on the basis of quality, and what’s there, essentially, as trolling. Good stuff will be on my final ballot, ranked appropriately. Trollage will not. It’s just that simple.

8. In sum: I think it’s possible for voters to thread the needle and give creators fair consideration while also expressing displeasure (if indeed one is displeased) at the idea of slates, or people trolling the award. This might take a little work, but then voting on the Hugos should be a little bit of work, don’t you think. This is a good year to do that.

This is also a very good year to make sure that you do vote.

The End of All Things: It’s Done!

Finished Saturday, April 4 at 9:02 am, Perth, Australia time. 99,000 words, give or take.

And it’s pretty good.

Immensely relieved to be done.

For those wondering: Hardcover release on August 11, 2015. Electronic release of each of the four novellas that comprise the novel will happen in the immediate weeks before. Yes, we’re platforming it like we did with The Human Division, but there will be less of a wait between the ebook episodes and the printed book (and the compiled electronic book). And yes, there will also be an audiobook version.

More thoughts to come later, but for now: Wheeeeee!

Novel Completion Queries, Day Nineteen

Is the novel finished: NO, but soooooooooooo close.

Today’s question: So, how ya doin?

My answer: I’m sooooooo close to being done with the novel, but I’m also literally falling down fatigued (remember I’m in Australia at the moment so it’s evening for me as I write this), so I’m going to go to bed, get a little sleep and then attempt to finish the thing before my first panel tomorrow. Wish me luck.

Novel Completion Queries, Day Eighteen

Is the novel finished: NO, but it’s pretty close now.

Today’s question: What’s the longest you’ve been away from home? For this exercise, we’re not counting military deployments, college stays, or things like LDS missionary work or the peace corps. We’re talking like “I’ve left the house and will have nothing resembling a permanent address until I get back.”

My answer: You would think it might be one of my book tours, but it actually was rather earlier than that. In the summer after my freshman year in high school, I went on a “peccary trip,” which was a fossil-hunting trip organized by my high school, across the US western states. It was four weeks long, and much of it was spent either in a van, driving from place to place, or out in a field or alluvial valley, searching for fossilized bone. It was actually pretty fun.

You?

Novel Completion Queries, Day Seventeen

Is the novel finished: NO

Today’s question: April Fool’s Day: Love it, hate it, indifferent about it?

My answer: I like it as a concept but am generally disappointed in the execution, as most “jokes” or “pranks” on April Fool’s Day aren’t really funny or clever. Being funny and clever is harder than most people seem to think it is.

Your thoughts?

Novel Completion Queries, Day Sixteen

Is the novel finished: NO

Today’s question: What’s the longest amount of time you’ve ever slept, from head down on the pillow to head up? “Sleep” in this case meaning actual sleep, not a coma, trauma-induced unconsciousness or any such thing (actual sleep related to things like colds and flus totally count, however).

My answer: In high school, I stayed up for four days (not 96 hours, but through four calendar days) and finally went to sleep when I started hallucinating. I put my head down on Friday night and woke up on Sunday morning. Since when I woke up my bladder wasn’t exploding (and my bed was not damp and smelly) I assume that at some point I got up to use the bathroom, but if I did I have absolutely no memory of it. So: About 30 hours, more or less.

You?

View From a Hotel Window: Perth

perth

Taken earlier today, before I took a jetlag-laden nap. I was mildly concerned that if I took a nap in the afternoon I would be unable to sleep this evening, but now it’s evening here in Perth and I’m here to tell you, I will have no trouble sleeping. 34 hours of travel is exhausting.

First impression of Perth: Seems nice, and more than a little bit like San Diego in terms of climate and vibe. There are worse places to be like.

Off to do a little writing and then sleeeeeeep.

Novel Completion Queries, Day Fifteen

Is the novel finished: PROBABLY NOT (I might have finished it on the plane, but that seems unlikely to me, and as I’m writing this ahead of time because I am likely still on the plane, I don’t know for sure)

Today’s question: Your favorite stuffed animal from your childhood (or heck, if it’s one from your adulthood, name it too, I don’t judge).

ppbMy answer: A pot belly bear (representative picture to the right), which was a faddishly popular stuffed animal in the late 70s and early 80s. Mine was named (because I was that kid) Lt. General Potter Patton Chocolate Chip Cookie. No, I don’t remember why. It just seemed to be the thing at the time. I got it in elementary school. I really liked that stuffed bear, enough so that when I went to boarding high school, I took it with me, which was not actually an advisible thing to do. I remember the poor being kidnapped a couple of times and at least once being threatened (jokingly, to be clear) with a swirly. When I left for college I gifted the bear to a girl friend of mine. I wonder if she still has it.

Your favorite?

Dear Ernie Cline

Dear Ernie:

As I was packing clothes for my trip to Australia, I came across an old t-shirt for VIP, your high school band. Man, I don’t remember how long I’ve had this shirt or how, in fact, I came in possession of it — I seem to remember a trip to Texas and fighting sixteen cowboys in a bar parking lot outside of Abilene for it, sometimes three or four at a time, but I may be misremembering — but it reminded me that, like you, before I was a writer, I was a high school rock and roll musician myself: I was in a band called Dead Rats Don’t Fly, and let me tell you, we rocked the greater Eastern San Gabriel Valley area back in the day. Good times, my friend, good times.

And, I don’t know, maybe it’s time to get the band back together. What do you think?

Or, we could form a band. Hey, it worked for the Rock Bottom Remainders. Why not us? As you can see, I still have the critical rock and roll moves:

(Any rumors that this stellar rock and roll leap ended with me on the lawn, clutching my knee in agony, is just that: rumor.)

Oh, and also, I hear it’s your birthday today. Happy birthday, man. May your day be filled with friends, fun, rock and roll and the occasional weird mystery.

Yer pal in the rock n’ roll lifestyle,

JS

(P.S.: For anyone wondering what it is that I’ve got there in my hot little hands, it’s a Warren Ellis Signature MandoTenor — that’s Warren Ellis the musician, not Warren Ellis the author. I bought, slightly prematurely, as a “finished the new novel” gift for myself. Since the new novel is not yet finished (sigh), I still haven’t actually played it yet. And now I’ll have to wait until I get back from Australia to play it. But it’s fine motivation to finish writing.)

Novel Completion Queries, Day Fourteen

Is the novel finished? NO

Today’s question: When was your first flight on an airplane? If you remember, where did you go? Aside from it being your first plane trip, was there anything notable about it?

My answer: It was when I was five, and my sister and I got on a plane — unaccompanied! — to go visit my aunt in Northern California. If memory serves (and it might not) we flew from Ontario, CA to Sacramento. I remember nothing about the flight other than taking off and waiting for our bag when we landed. After that flight, I don’t think I got on a plane again until I went off to college. These days, of course, I’m on planes all the time, including today, when I’m off to Australia.

Your first time?

Novel Completion Queries, Day Thirteen

Is the novel finished? NO

Today’s question: Name a product brand (or two) that you are not entirely rationally attached to. This is usually expressed is a rivalry (Coke vs. Pepsi, XBox vs. PlayStation) but doesn’t have to be.

My answer: I think Coke Zero is obvious, so I’ll mention a less known one: I have a difficult time buying jeans that aren’t from Levi’s, simply because when I was a kid, they were the brand, as opposed to Lee (for the urban cowboys), Wranglers (dude, who even wore those) or the various “designer jeans” which at the time were targeted more at the women’s market anyway. Nowadays there are all sorts of hipster alternatives for jeans, but I stick with the Levi’s.

Fun fact: I was in Walmart the other day picking up socks and underwear for my trip and decided I should get a new pair of jeans too, but Walmart doesn’t stock Levi’s — but it does stock “Signature by Levi Strauss,” i.e., “the brand that Levi’s makes for downmarket stores that Levi’s wouldn’t otherwise be in” (Lee and Wrangler, I’ll note, were amply represented by their lead brands). And I was all, whatever, dudes, and bought a pair.

Your brand?

I’m Participating in Nerdcon: Stories This October in Minneapolis

And what is Nerdcon: Stories? This informational video might help:

There’s also this ginchy Web site, with even more information.

And for those of you who stubbornly refuse to follow links, the guests (aside from me) include: John and Hank Green, Holly Black and Cassie Claire, Katherine Woodson, Patrick Rothfuss, Mary Robinette Kowal, Welcome to Nightvale, Steven Brust, Kimya Dawson, Paolo Bacigalupi and the proverbial many others.

It’s happening October 9th and 10th at the Minneapolis Convention Center. You should be there. Here’s the link again.

See you there!

Novel Completion Queries, Day Twelve

Is the novel finished? NO

Today’s question: What is the furthest away you’ve ever been from your home?

My answer: So far, Melbourne, Australia, which is (or so Google tells me) 9,807 miles from my current hometown of Bradford, Ohio.

However, that record is about to be broken, because on Sunday I get on a plane to Perth, Australia, which is 11,167 miles away, to be the International Guest of Honor at Swancon 40.  As the circumfrence of the Earth at the equator is 24,902 miles, meaning one can only get 12,451 miles from home before one starts inching back, it’s entirely possible that Perth is just about as far as I can get from Bradford and still be dry land — Indeed, another quick check of Google shows that the spot on Earth exactly opposite of Bradford is a spot in the Indian Ocean almost equidistant from Perth and a small island I’ve never heard of before called the French Southern and Antarctic Lands — and even then Perth (11,167 miles away) is further from my hometown than that island is (11,005 miles).

So yeah, very soon I will very literally be on the other side of the world from my home, nearly as far away from it as it is possible to get. That’s a little weird if you think about it.

How far have you gotten from home?

Novel Completion Queries, Day Eleven

Is the novel finished? NO

Today’s question: When you were fifteen, what was your favorite electric or electronic object? These can be computers, toys, phones, televisions, game consoles, etc. You get the idea.

My answer: Eddie Chowaiki’s Macintosh. He had one of the first of these computers, and I was in his dorm room constantly, using it to write short stories and other such things. I strongly suspect for a while there I was using it more than he was.

You?

Proof That Science Fiction Is the Literature of the Future, and That I Am the Prognostication MASTER

In The Android’s Dream, which I wrote over a decade ago now, I reached into the thinky crevasses of my brain to conceive of a thing that no human had dared to dream of: white chocolate M&M’s. Yes! I was the first! They came from my very thinkmeat! And people said to me then, well, hold up there, Scalzi. Spaceships and aliens are all very well, but white chocolate M&M’s? That’s too radical an idea! And then they laughed, nervously.

WELL WHO IS LAUGHING NOW, PEOPLE:

Yes. Arthur C. Clarke had communication satellites, Robert Heinlein had waterbeds, and now I have white chocolate M&M’s. I predicted this magnificent confection of the future! I did! Me! Alone!

YOUR WORLD IS WHAT I HAVE MADE IT, PUNY HUMANS. PARTAKE OF THE PEARLESCENT PRODUCT OF MY PRODIGIOUSLY UNPARALLELED PROGNOSTICATION.

I’ll take my Grand Master award now, if you please.

Novel Completion Queries, Day Ten

Is the novel finished? NO

Today’s question: Do you feel lucky?

My answer: I do, but I also believe strongly that with luck it isn’t the “lucky” thing that happens to you, but what you do in the aftermath of that event that matters.

You?

Novel Completion Queries, Day Nine

Is the novel finished? NO

Today’s question: What’s the first book you remember reading — meaning, the first book you were able to read on your own, front to back, without help from someone else. If you can’t remember the title, describe the contents/story of the book.

My answer: One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, by Dr. Seuss, an author I suspect will turn up a lot here. I was reading when I was two so I don’t really remember not being able to read, but this was the first book I actually have a memory of reading.

You?

Novel Completion Queries, Day Eight

Is the novel finished? NO

Today’s question: In honor of convention runner Peggy Rae Sapienza, who passed away yesterday: Name the first convention you went to. It can be a science fiction/comics/nerd-oriented convention (which I suspect is most typical for this crowd), but I’d also count conventions/shows for other enthusiasms as well — cars, video games, pets, etc. The convention should have been open to the public and have something more than just a sales floor — so panels, speakers, specialized interests rooms, etc. If you’ve never been to a convention, it’s okay to note that too.

My answer: Journalcon 2000, in Pittsburgh. It was a small gathering of folks who were writing blogs back in the day — so long ago they were called “online journals” or “online diaries” rather than “blogs” a word which was probably invented by then but didn’t have much currency. And it was a lovely time, and I met in the flesh a number of people who I am still friends with today, along with some others who, alas, have drifted off  — most of those online diaries from the turn of the century are not still active anymore. Here’s a picture of me singing karaoke at that convention. Oh, karaoke, you never let us down.

My first SF/F convention was Torcon 3 in Toronto, in 2003. It was where I first met many of the authors and SF/F folks who I count as very good friends today. Honestly, conventions have been pretty good to me, in terms of meeting people who have since become my friends, and have stayed so.

You?