Category Archives: Uncategorized

Novel Completion Queries, Day One

Is the novel finished? NO

Today’s question: Talk about your first serious crush. It can be someone you knew, or a celebrity crush. If someone you knew, do you still know that person?

My answer: It was Karin Woo, back in 7th grade. I was obnoxious to her, she would shove me into my locker, it was lurve (at least on my end). We became pretty good friends later in life. I still know her. She’s awesome.

You?

Security Certificate Alerts on Whatever — Don’t Panic!

Every once in a while I get an email or other notification from someone about their browser (usually Chrome but occasionally Firefox) warning them that Whatever is insecure and asking them if they really want to continue onto the site. In the interest of quelling concerns and also not having to write this up every single time it happens, let me tell you what’s going on.

1. Whatever is housed on WordPress’ VIP service (and happily so) at scalzi.wordpress.com; the address whatever.scalzi.com maps there.

2. Whatever’s security cerificate, however, is to the wordpress.com domain, not the scalzi.com domain.

3. So, if you’re directing your browser to use https, it may throw up a warning letting you know the domain doesn’t match.

So, the URL isn’t being hijacked — unless you see on the warning page that the security certificate is going somewhere other than wordpress.com.

I’ll look into seeing what can be done about figuring this out. In the meantime, if you are getting these warnings, here’s what you can do.

1. Use “http” rather than “https” when you put in the URL (note this is nominally insecure) and you’ll be taken to Whatever without fuss.

2. If you see the security certificate for the site is from wordpress.com, go to the advanced settings and click through, it’ll be fine (and your browser will probably remember your preference in the future).

3. Alternately, if you use https, substitute “scalzi.wordpress.com” for “whatever.scalzi.com” and you’ll be taken to Whatever without any security alerts. Note that once you’re there, the URL will show up as “whatever.scalzi.com.” Mapping is wacky. This works for sub-urls as well (direct links to entries, etc). Update: Note that IT folks in the comments say that when you’re punted back to whatever.scalzi.com, you’re being sent back to the site without https enabled.

Update: 4. Another option I just enabled it to access Whatever via a shared SSL Encryption setup. The URL to use is: https://ssl.perfora.net/whatever.scalzi.com (it will also work with individual entry URLs). Note using this will strip out insecure elements of the page (usually things like embedded media).

Hope this helps.

Bart Blauser, RIP

I’d like to take a moment here to note the passing of Bart Blauser, who was Krissy’s uncle, earlier this month, and whose life we celebrated yesterday at a memorial service with family and friends. Pretty simply, Bart was a fine example of “salt of the earth”: A good and decent man who loved his family and friends, enjoyed working the soil in his garden and farm, who worked hard and who, in my experience, treated everyone with kindness and friendliness. He also threw an excellent July 4th party every year, complete with pig roast, volleyball and a late night fire, around which people would gather and bring guitars.

There’s more to him than those things, of course, but those things are enough to give you a glimpse of why there is one less good man on the planet, who was loved, and who will be missed. May his spirit rest well.

Best Dad Ever

So this happened tonight:

And thus:

Oh, yeah. Best dad ever.

New Books and ARCs 3/13/15

Been a busy week for new books and ARCs because, well, some weeks are like that. But on the other hand, it’s also been an excellent week, and today’s installment is no exception. See something you’re interested in here? Let me know in the comments!

The Next Month (or so) on Whatever and Social Media

So, I’m in crunch time on The End of All Things (which truth be told is running just a tiny bit late, which annoys me because deadlines are a thing I usually hit) and April is my Month O’ Travel™ this year. This will mean things for Whatever and my presence on social media for the next few weeks. Let me outline them for you.

From 3/16 – 3/29: Deeply limited posting here until the book is done. What I will likely do is what I’ve done in the past, which is, if the book is not yet done, to leave you with a question for the day that you may discuss amongst yourselves while I’m writing away (comment threads will still be moderated, although possibly not by me). There will also be Big Idea posts during this time.

Likewise during this time I will have almost no presence on Twitter and other social media until the book is done. Crunch time, folks. Book’s gotta get finished.

3/29 – 4/12: I will be in Australia, on Australian time, and busy with travel and two separate conventions. I’m likely to be posting here, but probably less than when I’m at home, time-shifted at that, and contingent on having access to wifi. I will probably be on Twitter more frequently, and again, contingent on wifi access.

4/13 – 4/20: In Los Angeles, doing business, attending the LA Times Festival of Books and slacking off when I’m not doing either of those two things. Again, less posting than usual here, probably, and you’ll probably see me on Twitter more.

4/21: Back at home! Hooray!

Also for those of you keeping track of it, the 2015 edition of the Reader Request Week will be April 27 – May 3. A little later than usual, but see schedule above.

And now you know what to expect here for the next few weeks.

RIP, Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett in Bologna, 2007. Photograph by Federico Giacanelli and used under Creative Commons license (original here)

It’s being reported that Sir Terry Pratchett has died. Which means that it’s a very sad day for lovers of fantasy and science fiction. Sir Terry (which I will call him here rather than “Pratchett” because, hey, have you been knighted?) had been dealing with Alzheimers for some time now, and his public journey with it, I think, did more to demystify the disease than anything else has in recent times.

More selfishly, he was the co-author of one of my favorite fantasy books of all time: Good Omens. I love that book insensibly.

I met Sir Terry only once and that fleetingly, but that encounter left me with a good story to tell, and I will share it now. It was at the 2004 Worldcon in Boston, where Sir Terry was the Guest of Honor. He was on a panel called “Looking Backward: the 20th Century,” along with Esther Friesner, Craig Gardner and me. I was definitely the junior member of this crew — Old Man’s War had not been published yet — and in retrospect I vaguely wonder whose idea it was to put a complete unknown on a panel with the convention’s GoH (whoever it was — thank you).

The discussion was far-ranging, and because we were talking about the 20th Century in the past tense, we started talking about what future archeologists would make of the century, with the notation that trash heaps were invaluable for acheological purposes; after all, everything everyone uses sooner or later is turned into trash. This prompted Sir Terry to note that archeologists in Jerusalem very recently came across two thousand year old cloacae (i.e., latrines), which, because they were in an anaerobic enviroment, their contents were perfectly preserved from when they were, uh, deposited, two millennia ago.

To which I replied, “Holy shit.”

And for which I was rewarded with still the largest laugh I’ve ever gotten at a convention, much less a Worldcon.

Mind you, the reason I got a laugh that large was because hundreds of people filled a room to see Sir Terry, not me. But for that moment, I got to share. And if memory serves, Sir Terry gave me a little duck of the head after I said it, as if to say, well played.

It’s one of my favorite moments of all my time in science fiction and fantasy, and it would not have happened without him. For that alone, he would be forever enshrined fondly in my memory. It is not that for that alone that he is fondly enshrined there.

My good thoughts and condolences to Sir Terry’s family, friends and fans. He is not replacable, but we were gifted by the time he was here. May his memory, and his writing, be a comfort to all.

Note to Businesses Following Me on Twitter

Please, please, please don’t just drop an ad/PR bit for your product into my tweet stream. One, it’s not nice, even if you didn’t intend not to be nice. Two, an ad/PR bit sent cold to my tweet stream will likely get you muted or blocked because you’ve shown me that you consider me a mark, which I don’t appreciate. Three, if you do it to enough people other than me, then you’re spamming. Which will likely get you blocked and reported by a number of people.

Which is to say that your ad/PR pitch will fail, which is the opposite of what you want.

This does not mean that your business account can’t tweet at me or talk to me — I get that all the time, and mostly it’s fun, and indeed a good corporate Twitter presence goes a long way with me (see: here, where a nicely laconic response to my frustration with a company’s product was on my mind when I bought the replacement product, also from that company (the replacement product works just fine)). But there is a difference between conversing with me — even while promoting your product — and just dropping an ad/PR pitch into my tweet stream.

If you’re a company who is hoping for me to promote a product of yours, via retweet or mention, first, read my policy on retweets, and second, outside of retweets the best way to reach me in terms of product awareness is through email. Yes, lots of businesses and publicists already do this, you won’t be alone. Dropping an ad/PR bit into my Twitter stream doesn’t work because I will mute it. I don’t mute PR pitches in my email. Email is where the pitches are supposed to be. In fact, I even have a publicity policy.

(Don’t send ads to my email, however. Those will just get shunted into the spam folder.)

In short: My tweet stream is not for company ads or pitches. Don’t make me mute or block you, it’ll just annoy the both of us. Thanks.

A Book Sale at the Cost of Your Conscience

First, some context: These two tweets about an article in a Romance Writers of America magazine, in which the writer of the article counsels against taking a stand in social media on “controversial” topics:

Second, as it happens, and as it often happens when one has been writing a blog for almost seventeen years, I have a piece in the archive which touches upon this very topic, called “Why, Yes, I Should Write About Politics.” It’s worth the read, and my basic opinion on the matter is unchanged since then.

Third, new additional thoughts, and some other continuing thoughts, on the topic.

No one is obliged to speak on political or social issues if they don’t want, and no one is obliged to chip in their two cents on a topic that’s gathering pennies on any particular day. It’s perfectly fine to say, publicly or privately, “I don’t know enough on this and am reading up,” or “I’m on deadline and have to focus,” or “I have a lot of thoughts on this topic and 140 characters can’t express them” or even “addressing this topic right now feels like it would be sticking my head into a hive of angry hornets and why would I want to do that.” One’s participation is not required on every single topic, every single day.

But note well there is a difference between it being said that one is not required to offer up opinions, and that one should not offer them up at all — or, in this particular instance, that one should “take a more neutral approach.” The first of these is about the recognition that any individual writer has only so much time, energy and knowledge to commit to commenting on social issues, and the other is, frankly, about fear: you won’t sell books if you have an opinion a reader doesn’t like.

And that’s just terrible advice. It’s terrible advice in part because it’s simply not true — there are best selling writers in every genre who express opinions that outrage and annoy whole packs of people, and have since before they were best sellers, and yet they sell books nonetheless — and in part because it’s reductive. It’s an argument that posits that once a writer enters the stream of commerce, the most important thing about that writer’s life is their ability to sell books. Everything else about that writers’ life suddenly takes a back seat to that single commercial goal.

Speaking as an explicitly commercial writer — I write books that I plan to sell! To a lot of people! — I’m of the opinion that one of the worst ways to be a writer is to shear off or trim down all parts of your life that are not obviously designed to further the goal of selling tons of books. Why? Because then you’re cutting off the parts of your life that inform your writing, and which allow you to create the work that speaks to people, which is to say, to write the stories that people want to read and buy, and make you an author they wish to support. Being in “the business of selling books” doesn’t mean simply moving units of collections of words, any words at all. Those words have to mean something, to you and to potential readers, otherwise it won’t matter how hyperfocused you are on selling.

The author of this article notes “there are a million polarizing topics.” That’s correct, but it’s too limited. Any topic can be polarizing. I’ve been on the Internet for a quarter of a century now and have seen knock-down, drag-out, friendship-ending fights on topics I personally consider absolutely trivial. Turns out these topics aren’t trivial to many people — and it also turns out that “trivial” topics have social and political aspects to them that make them far less trivial than those outside those interest groups may initially expect (see: Gamergate). If one were to “take a more neutral stance” on any potentially polarizing topic, one would have to say nothing on anything, ever.

And you know what? It wouldn’t matter. Because whosoever writes a book — any book, in any genre — has written a polarizing thing. Entire genres are polarizing simply for existing; certainly romance writers, who have to deal with condescension and sexism because their field is predominantly woman-centered, know this, even though the genre is the single largest-selling genre of them all. Whatever the subject matter of a book is, someone can and probably will single it out for criticism, and that criticism can and often will be about the author’s presumed politics and social positions — which is why when Old Man’s War first came out, I got criticism (and praise!) for being, among other things, a conservative gun fetishist, which is amusing to anyone who knows me.

To write publicly is to be judged and to be criticized and to be polarizing. If one avoids speaking on public issues in social media only out fear of alienating readers, all one does is possibly delay such judgment. Judgment will happen for what you say and also what you don’t say. Judgment will happen for what you write in your books and what people assume you meant when you wrote those words, regardless of your authorial intent. Judgment will happen based on who people think you are based on the fantasy version of you they have in their head, which is almost always more about their own fears and desires than anything that has to do with the actual person you are.

So you might as well say whatever the hell you like, if you like. If nothing else, then the fantasy versions of who you are might be closer to the person you actually are.

Here’s the final thing I want you to think about: Advising writers to be publicly “neutral” on “controversial” topics is dangerous, because it gives those who want to silence any author who has opinions they don’t like a tool for that silencing. See? Even the RWA is telling you to shut up on this. Now shut the fuck up, or you will fail, and it will be your fault. RWA’s membership is as I understand it primarily women. I’m not entirely sure that it’s helpful for these writers to be given advice to be silent or “neutral”. For some of them, their just being a woman is enough excuse for some people to actively try to silence them, and threaten them, and to try to exert control over them. I don’t think that sort needs additional encouragement, intentional or otherwise, from a writer speaking to a largely women-centered audience.

Ever since I’ve been a published author, I’ve had people declaring that they will not buy my books because I wrote or said something they dislike. The intent was clear: You exist only to amuse me. I hold the key to your success. Do as I say or suffer the consequences. Whatever demanding or threatening I get is nothing compared to what others — different genders and ethnicities and sexualities — get. What these threateners, and apparently the author of this article, don’t understand is that the world is positively filled with people who will read my work despite of, because of, or independent of, my social and political thoughts. Those people will find my work and read it and enjoy it. They will find and read and enjoy the work of any author. Beyond that, I am not only the sum of my book sales. I write to sell and I write to amuse, but I don’t exist only for those things. I exist to be a writer, and a husband, and a father, and a friend, and a citizen of my nation and my world, and as an individual who is his own person, aside from the desires of others.

Which is why when people object to my positions on social and political issues, I say: Oh, well. And when they try to silence or threaten me, I say: Kiss my ass. I neither want nor need the sort of reader who thinks a book sale gives them the right to dictate how I live my life, or what I choose to speak about in the public sphere. As a writer, I believe that neither I nor any other writer, including ones giving advice in writing magazines, should be encouraging these sort of people to believe that they can or should tell writers what they can and cannot speak about publicly.

This is the long way of saying this: That advice? It’s bad. Don’t be “neutral” in public on the things that are important to you. Speak if you choose to speak. A book sale at the cost of your conscience is a very bad deal indeed.

A Visit to Mammoth Cave

My friend Monica Byrne (the author of the very fine novel The Girl in the Road, which I liked so much I blurbed it) had a hankering to visit the Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, and since I was only a few hours away, asked if I would be interested in joining her. Well, I like a big hole in the ground as much as anyone, so I said sure, why not. And thus I spent a non-trivial part of the week roughly 40 yards underground, looking at fascinating geologic features and trying not to be eaten by cave CHUDs.

Naturally I brought along my camera to document the journey. If you like to see the photos of our trip, the photo set is up on Flickr. It contains many interesting pictures of the cave and its features. None of the CHUDs, alas. They are camera shy.

Hey, I’ll Be at the Pickerington, OH Public Library Two Weeks From Today

John Scalzi Slideshow Image

And what will I be doing there? Oh, you know. Talking and signing books and answering questions and maybe reading something from the upcoming book that no one will have ever heard before. Maybe. We’ll see.

Anyway, if you happen to be anywhere near Pickerington, OH on the 18th of March, why don’t you come on down. This is, at the moment, my only scheduled appearance in mid-Ohio for 2015, so if you’d like to see me, you know where I’ll be.

Things I Promised People I Would Tell You About, Not That I Didn’t Want to Tell You About Them Anyway, Because They’re Cool

They are:

1. If you’re a science fiction writer and you would like maybe to get a little better grounding in some of the “science” portion of that genre, then this is going to be for you: The Schrödinger Sessions: Science for Science Fiction workshop, this summer from July 30 through August 1st.

What will the workshop cover?

The Schrödinger Sessions is a three-day workshop for science fiction writers offering a “crash course” in modern physics, to be held at the Joint Quantum Institute (JQI), one of the world’s leading research centers for the study of quantum mechanics.  We will introduce participants to phenomena like superposition, entanglement, and quantum information through a series of lectures by JQI scientists and tours of JQI laboratories.  We hope this will inform and inspire new stories in print, on screen, and in electronic media, that will in turn inspire a broad audience to learn more about the weird and fascinating science of quantum physics and the transformative technologies it enables.

Go to the link to find out more. The application form is not up yet but will be, as I understand, in a couple of days. Also, I’ve been asked to note to writers that it’s not just science fiction prose writers who are eligible to attend: Screenwriter and video game writers can also get in on this action. So check it out.

2. If you like Star Trek and/or Doctor Who — which given the demographics of the readership of this site seems like a pretty good chance — you may be interested in this: A Doctor for the Enterprise, a crossover comic book written by 2015 Worldcon Guest of Honor David Gerrold (who is enshrined in Star Trek lore for writing “The Trouble With Tribbles” and other things).

Note that this release is a limited edition, so if you want one, you should probably click that link above and get on it right away. I would not want for you to live your life in regret.

(Also, if you’re the sort who likes behind the scenes articles, here’s one on the making of the comic book. Enjoy.)

Today’s Reading is From the Book of Redshirts

This is cool: Redshirts being used as part of a church sermon (specifically at St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church in Madison, Wisconsin). It is, logically enough, being used a bit like a parable (or at least a framing device) to help discuss a larger and more complicated theological idea. I like it when my work finds use in interesting ways like this. The sermon’s pretty good, too.

(Thanks to Pamela Grenfell Smith for bringing it to my attention.)