A Seasonal Greeting From Daisy

Daisy ecumenically wishes you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, brilliant solstice, joyous Kwanzaa and all the best for the coming year. And so do I!

Whatever Best of 2016

It is a truth universally acknowledged that 2016 was a monumental shit-show of a year, not only for itself — which would be enough! — but also because it’s now clear that it’s merely the beginning of a shit-show epoch, the depths of which have yet to be plumbed, and the best of which one can say is that hopefully incompetence will save us from true horror. But hey! At least I got some good Whatever entries out of it, right? So, uh, yeah, that’s something. Below you’ll find the 20 pieces that I think best represent the year here at Whatever, presented in alphabetical rather than chronological order.

It’s a politics-heavy wrap-up, which is not surprising in an election year, and in this election year in particular; it could have been even more election-heavy but I didn’t want to depress everyone more than they already are. There are other things thrown in there as well for balance, including some happy stuff (really!). No matter how you slice it, however, 2016 was a dark mess, and many of the best Whatever entries this year reflect that.

Despite the overall downer nature of this list, remember there are and continue to be good things in the world, and that you may still find them, and find them in yourself. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas Eve or first night of Hanukkah, or just plain Saturday, whichever the case may be.

New Books and ARCs, 12/23/16

In just before Christmas and the start of Hanukkah, this set of books and ARCs that have come to the Scalzi Compound. Anything you’d like to see under the tree or aside the menorah? Tell me in the comments!

18

Here is a true thing: In the grand scheme of things, I’ve only had three things I wanted to do with my life. The first was to be a writer. The second was to be a good husband. The third was to make sure that any kid I had made it through their childhood without want or fear, and knowing that they were loved. When I was younger, I figured if I could manage those three things, then at the end of my days I could leave this planet with a content heart.

The first of these you know about, presumably, and in general I think I nailed that one. The second of these is a work in progress, but, twenty-one and a half years in, I seem to be doing all right (I just checked with Krissy on this one. She said yes, and was patiently bemused that I asked).

The third thing happened today. Athena is eighteen years old. Legally an adult! And while that number is arbitrary and arguable, as every human is different — there are people I know who I would have considered fully capable adults at fifteen, and people who at fifty I think are not actually grown up — nevertheless it’s a significant milestone. My kid is an adult now. I am literally not the boss of her anymore. And I and Krissy have gotten her there, without want or fear, and with her knowing, with certainty, that she was and is loved.

In one sense it’s obvious why this is important to me. What parent does not want these things for their child? These things are also, to be blunt, not particularly laudable; if you have the means and circumstances (I’ll get back to this in just a bit), you should be doing these things as a matter of course, and even in difficult circumstances you should be striving for them. There are no medals for being a decent parent. It’s a baseline.

But the thing is, I didn’t have a childhood free of want or fear, and while I never doubted I was loved, at certain times and in certain circumstances, everything else was up in the air. Here at the age of 47, I don’t feel the need to put my own parents up against a wall and read them a litany of their failures raising a child, in part because I know more about their lives than I did when I was younger, and in part because after a certain point I think you just have to let it go and realize that somewhere along the way who you are becomes your own responsibility (and fault), not your parents’. Parents are human, they are who they are, and you, in whatever fashion works for you, celebrate, accept, forgive or try to understand them. Or you don’t. It’s up to you.

So my childhood was not always an easy one, and also to the point, my parental role models were uncertain at best. What sort of parent would I be? What would I be able to do for my child? Who would I be to and for my child? How would I parent along with my wife? I’m not going to lie, and again, I’ll be blunt: I was terrified I would just plain fuck it up, in all sorts of ways.

But here we are, on Athena’s eighteenth birthday. She’s a terrific person, and one of my favorite people, not just because she’s my kid, but because of who she is, and who she’s always been. All her life, there are very few people I have wanted to hang around with more, to spend time with, to have conversations with, both inane and sublime. She’s not perfect, which is fine because I’m not perfect and neither are you, but as I have said so many times and am saying again now, there’s no doubt she’s perfect for me. She is, simply, the child I always dreamed I would have, of whom I live in wonder of her existence, amazed that Krissy and I made such a person, helped her grow and placed her on the path she’s making for herself. I love her with such an immensity that I — whose job is to put things into words — stand mute before it. Try as I may, I can’t make you feel all the love and pride and honor I have just to know her, to be part of her life, and to see her be who she is, and become who she will be.

I think you probably get it anyway.

We are fortunate, and Athena is fortunate. She always had two parents, and the same two parents, parents who both worked hard and got lucky in many ways, who during the course of her childhood always managed an upward trajectory, and who were always in love with each other and unafraid to show it to each other, and to her. Not every kid gets all of those things. It’s not to suggest parents are inherently to blame if they don’t. Sometimes not only do divorces happen, but they’re necessary. Sometimes a parent can work hard their whole life and never catch a break. Sometimes a bus goes up on a curb, or cancer happens, or a job goes away forever, or there’s a war, or any one of a million things that makes it hard for parents to give their kids the childhood they wanted to give, and that every child should have. I know it, better than most.

I look back on the last eighteen years and am thankful that during them — during the part of my life where a small growing person was reliant on me and my wife — all the breaks went our way. And while I’m aware that my hard work and the hard work of my wife matters for this, and that luck truly does favor the prepared and those willing to make an effort, I’m also well aware of how much was out of our hands as well. Thank you, universe.

I’m also immensely thankful for Krissy, every step of the way through Athena’s childhood. Krissy and I made a good parenting team because we make a good team, period: We have complementary skill sets and parenting styles, and a willingness to work together. This was something we talked about even before Athena was born — everything from what we’d do when Athena, as all children innocently do, tried to set us against each other to get what she wanted, to what we’d do when she and I fundamentally disagreed on something as parents (the answer, in case you’re curious: I ceded final decision authority to Krissy, on the grounds that she is both the more sensible and cautious of the two of us. Nothing ever got to that point, as it happens; turns out we agree on most things, and the things we don’t have been relatively trivial. Still, good to have a plan).

But more than that, the fact is my wife is just an amazing mother and human. From the earliest days I saw how she was as a parent, and I was inspired to keep pace, for her and for Athena. Did I manage it? Not always, because I’m me, and between the ideal version of John Scalzi, Parent and the actual parent who is John Scalzi, there is a gap. I screwed up, did stupid things and occasionally threw up my hands and retreated into my office to play video games. But with Krissy, and because of Krissy, I kept at it.

Ultimately, neither I or Krissy will be the best arbiter of how we were as parents. Athena is and will be. But I can say that I look at my daughter and I think: We did it. We got this human through childhood and to the door of her adult life, whole and healthy and filled with the possibilities that the world can have for her.

Athena will never not be my daughter. She will never not be my child. I and Krissy will be here for her and with her, for as long as we can and for as far as the world will allow. That’s never in doubt. But here on her eighteenth birthday, it’s her life now. And one part of my life — one of the best parts — is over. The part where I got to have her as my little girl.

It was a gift, and a privilege, and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything in this world. It was a thing I wanted to do with my life. It has made me complete.

Happy birthday, Athena. I love you.

My Writing Brain is Still Apparently Telling Me to Screw Off, So Here’s a Picture of a Cat Looking Heroically Into the Distance Instead

Which I expect will be fine for most of you. Enjoy the rest of your Thursday!

My Problem Right Now

Me: I want to write a long piece on politics today!

Brain: Sorry, man. Not up for it. Too much thinking involved.

Me: But I have important things to say!

Brain: You should have thought about it before you decided to fuel me exclusively on Christmas cookies for three days straight.

Me: What’s wrong with that?

Brain: Dude, carbs and sugar? Exclusively? It’s a miracle I have the attention span to let you put together a sentence, much less paragraphs and think pieces.

Me: What a crock. The cookies have butter. That’s a fat.

Brain: Think about what you’re saying here.

Me: But the world needs me to opine!

Brain: Fine. Six tweets.

Me: What?

Brain: I’ll give you six political tweets today. That’s all I got.

Me: But I’ve already done two political tweets today! Arguably three!

Brain: Better make the next 420 characters count, then.

Me: You’re awful.

Brain: Have another cookie. You’ll feel better.

Me: Mmmmm… Christmas cookies.

Brain: Yeah, that’s what I thought.

New Books and ARCs, 12/20/16

The books keep coming! Here are the latest new books and ARCs to arrive at the Scalzi Compound. Anything jump out at you? Tell me about it in the comments!

 

Golden Hour, 12/19/16

That’s ice on the lawn and trees, sparkling in the sun. Cold. But pretty.

(The larger version is even prettier.)

Rogue One, or, the Disneyfication of Star Wars is Complete (and This is a Good Thing)

(NOTE: This review of Rogue One is spoiler-free but I will be allowing the conversation in the comment thread to contain spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the film yet, you might want to skip the comments for now.)

As I walked out of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story last night, the male half of a couple behind me turned to his partner and said “Disney, not fucking it up again.”

This tells you a few things:

One, that even in the wilds of Piqua, Ohio, people are aware that Star Wars is a Disney property now. Perhaps this is not as inside pool as it might have been, given how much and how enthusiastically Disney has been plastering Star Wars all over its branding and theme parks, but it’s still notable that it was basically the first thing to come out of the mouth of some midwestern dude and not, say, a wannabe screenwriter in Burbank;

Two, that there is an awareness that at least on the movie front, the Star Wars brand was in deep trouble after the prequel trilogy and needed substantial revitalization;

Three, there’s an awareness that Disney did in fact manage that revitalization, not just once, but twice now — and thus “Disney, not fucking it up again” (emphasis mine).

And this random dude in Piqua, Ohio was absolutely correct: Disney yet again did not fuck up Star Wars. In fact, for two films running the folks at Disney have produced two really top-notch Star Wars films, a feat that has not been managed in thirty-five years — or possibly ever, depending on whether you believe the original Star Wars, as epochal as it undeniably was, is actually good, which given its pastiche-heavy, merely-serviceable plot and script, and leaden acting and direction, is debatable. The Disneyfication of the Star Wars universe is now complete, and this is a good thing. As I’ve noted before, Disney, for all its sins, consistently drives to entertain, and drives to entertain intelligently, meaning that it doesn’t see its audience as a mark but as a partner. Disney gives us thrills and fun, and we give them money, and wait for the cycle to repeat, as it does, consistently.

Yes, fine, Scalzi, but how is the film itself? Well, Rogue One is different from the other Star Wars films, consistently darker and more adult than any since Empire and really the first where I, at least, didn’t feel like the potential additions to the merchandising lines were a key driver of story (hello, BB-8, adorable as you are). This might seem ironic, given that this is Disney, and that Disney is unashamed of maximizing ancillary profit centers. But two things here. One, it’s not like there aren’t tons of toys coming out of this anyway (the film’s time setting also allows a canny refreshing of lots of old school Star Wars merchandise, including everything Darth Vader and Death Star), and two, Disney’s playing a longer game here. This is the first Star Wars film off the main “Skywalker” thread, and Disney wants to establish a slightly different tone and feel. After 40 years of Star Wars, it’s okay to recognize that grown-ups are part of the Star Wars audience and they might want to have a film catering to them first, or at least nodding in their direction.

As it happens, the way I would explain Rogue One is to compare it to another series of Disney films, from another franchise engine that the corporation absorbed: Rogue One feels a bit like a Captain America movie. The Captain America films (specifically the last two, The Winter Soldier and Civil War) are part of the Marvel universe, which is bright and shiny and quippy and has people in ridiculous costumes doing fundamentally goofy things with superpowers, and within that setting the Captain America films also manage to address actual, relevant issues like whether or not there should be limits to power, and whether countries are owed allegiance if they abandon their principles. And (thanks in large part to the Russo brothers) they’re paced like superior political thrillers. Now, we can talk about what it means that here in the second decade of the 21st century that in order to get a successful political thriller in the film format we have to stuff it into a story about supermen in spandex, but let’s do that later. For now, my point is: Within the pretty, colorful and essentially adolescent universe of Marvel, here’s a branch playing a little more grown up.

Likewise, Rogue One. It’s not about young people growing up, like essentially all the Skywalker films are, with Luke and Anakin and Padme and Rey and Finn all either coming into their own power or falling out of it. All the primary characters in Rogue One are all already grown up and morally compromised in one way or another. The rebellion is not the simple and clean moral engine for good it was portrayed as before; there’s lots of gray around its edges and in its practices, and its sole moral advantage is that the Empire truly is just plain fascistic evil.

Also, interestingly and I think importantly, this is the first Star Wars film where the Force does not play a key role in the action — until Vader shows up and starts Force-choking people because he’s an asshole, it’s mostly there as historical background; when people say “May the Force be with you” here, 95% of the time it’s like saying “good luck” (There are two other characters with some history of the Force, and one of them at least may benefit from it directly — or he may just have really excellent senses other than sight. It’s ambiguous). It’s the first Star Wars film, basically, that really is more science fiction than space fantasy, and that’s interesting in of itself.

Rather than the characters growing up, these characters are more engaged in questions of redemption — that is to say, whether the choices that they’ve made in the service to the rebellion (or the choices they made to avoid it) mean something or can be made to mean something. There would be spoilers to answer those questions here so I won’t, but I can say that another reason Rogue One works is that by and large it follows those questions to their logical ends, not the ones that might make the characters (or us) happiest.

It’s still a Star Wars film, mind you (which is not a bad thing): There are lots of aliens and lasers and explosions and X-Wings and droids and silly bits of pseudo-science that it’s best not to think about too long. There’s also a great deal of fan service, from blue milk to cameos by characters who in the Star Wars universe are long gone, and in at least a couple of cases, from actors long dead (the latter of these, actually, represents my only real technical criticism of the film — the film CGIs up a character from the original film which falls dead square into the shadows of the uncanny valley. Sorry, ILM, you still haven’t nailed skin lighting and textures perfectly). It also — finally and logically, but again don’t look too closely — addresses a womp rat-sized plot hole in the Star Wars universe I was glad to have dealt with. I don’t think this is the best film to introduce a kid to Star Wars with — the PG-13 rating is well advised — but you’ll get your Star Wars out of this Star Wars film, with all the many positive and few negatives that come with that territory.

The script (Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy from a story by John Knoll and my Twitter pal Gary Whitta) is good and mostly efficient; it’s not funny and light in the way the script in The Force Awakens was (most of the funny lines go to the droid K-2SO, performed by Alan Tudyk, who plays him as a spiritual cousin to Marvin the Robot), but then this is not a light and funny story, so that’s fine. The actors are excellent playing compromised people in an imperfect galaxy, and Gareth Edwards’ direction — largely dispassionate and at a bit of a remove — works generally very well (although not perfectly in some emotionally intimate moments). I had recently assumed that once John Williams was done scoring Star Wars films that Michael Giacchino would take his place, so him doing the music here is not a surprise and is largely credible, if not hugely memorable (I would emphasize yet here; to be fair he’s stepping into huge musical shoes here (and thankfully Williams is not yet done with the scoring of the mainline films)). With the exception of that one CGI blip noted above, everything visually looks fantastic and lived in: This is a galaxy that is not neat and clean and utopically shiny.

Rogue One is the smartest Star Wars film, I would say — not only in itself, but in how it functions within the Star Wars universe, and (to come back around to the top paragraphs) in how Disney is administering the Star Wars universe for its fans. After The Force Awakens, it was still possible to say that film, machine-tooled as it was to hit the Star Wars geeks soft spots, might have been a fluke, a one-off bright spot with everything firing on all cylinders because everyone wanted it to work. Rogue One, different in tone and execution but still undeniably a Star Wars film, shows it’s not a fluke. Disney is on its game when it comes to Star Wars. They didn’t fuck it up, twice in a row now. It’s reasonable at this point to work on the theory they’ll continue to not fuck it up. Rogue One earns them that credit, and trust.

New Books and ARCs, 12/16/16

An economy-sized collection of new books and ARCs for your delight this Friday, with many fine authors and books. What calls to you here? Tell us in the comments!

Athena, on the Occasion of (Probably) Her Last Day as a High School Student

Why is this girl smiling? Because today is probably Athena’s last day as a high school student. As you may remember, this year Athena has been attending the local community college rather than the local school, because Athena basically had only one more class she needed to complete her high school requirements, and it was easier to schedule it at the college than at the school. Today is the last day of the semester at the college, and with it, the completion of her high school requirements. Athena’s petitioned to be allowed to graduate early, and historically such petitions have been granted (we’ll know for certain next week). If it is, well, then, this is it. The end of Athena’s high school days. You can see she’s pretty pleased by this turn of events.

This also completes, I suspect, my annual tradition of “last day of school” pictures for Athena; after this she’ll be off at college, and I won’t be around for her final day at the end of each year. This is where one can get maudlin and start singing “Sunrise, Sunset” or something along that line, but I’ll go ahead and postpone that for now. We have other big commemorations coming up soon, and I want to save my thoughts until then.

Nevertheless, a big day, and I’m proud of my daughter. But then, there’s not a day that I’m not.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

And it’s always nice to find a cat under the tree. 

Hope your December is going swimmingly.

So Who Won the ARC for The Dispatcher?

Photo by Valerius Tygart; used under Creative Commons license. Click on photo to go to original.

It was Nancy K, who was the third person (out of apparently fifteen) to correctly guess the animal I was thinking of, which was the pangolin. She wins because when I rolled my 20-sided die on my desk, the number that came up was “3”, and she was the third. Yes, the counting of the number was three. You may start making your Monty Python jokes now.

Thanks everyone who played along! It was fun to do one of these again. I might do it again soon. Nancy K, I’ll send you an email.

Hey, I Feel Like Giving Away This Subterranean Press ARC of “The Dispatcher”

And I could give it away to you! Yes you, wherever you are in the world. I’ll even sign it (and personalize it, if you like).

Here’s what you have to do to enter:

In the comment thread attached to this entry, tell me what animal I’m thinking of right now

(Note: I have told Krissy which animal it is, so I can’t change my mind.)

Two hints: It’s a land animal, and it’s a vertebrate.

Only one animal per entry, one entry per person. Entries with multiple animals will be disqualified as will any additional entries from anyone aside from the first. When you comment, in the “email” field, leave an actual email I can reach you at (don’t leave it in the body of the comment, unless you want everyone to know your email). Only comments here on Whatever will be considered for the contest (i.e., don’t leave comments on Twitter or Facebook or anywhere else).

You have until noon Eastern on Tuesday, December 13, 2016 to enter. I’ll close the comment thread after that.

In the case of multiple people guessing the same animal, I’ll tally up the number of the people who guess the animal (up to the first six TWENTY because I just found my 20-sided die) and then roll a die. The number that comes up will correspond to the number of the person who guess (for example, if the number rolled is a two, then the second person to correctly guess the animal wins, etc).

If you like, while you’re guessing the animal to win the ARC, you can also pre-order the final print version from Subterranean Press, either in the unsigned trade edition, or the signed, limited edition (only 400 of those). The print version arrives in May, and features awesome cover and interior art by Vincent Chong. And of course, it’s currently available in the audio edition, read by Zachary Quinto.

Good luck with your guessing!

Miniatures Arrives!

And is looking very fine, I have to say. It showed up to my house while I was away this weekend in Chicago, so I saw it in the flesh when I returned yesterday evening. Which is a very fine way to have a homecoming, I have to say. The book itself is wonderfully well put-together, as Subterranean Press books typically are, and I especially love the cover and interior art, which is done by Natalie Metzger. They’re perfect for the book.

If I have a copy it means that other copies will be heading out soon. But there is still time to preorder from SubPress, and when you do, you’ll get the electronic version included in the price of the (limited to 1500! All signed by me!) hardcover. Go get it; it’s a fun collection of short stories, and a very pretty book.

Four Weeks In

Original photo by Michael Vadon, used under Creative Commons license. To see original, click on photo.

Once more in a Q&A format. Here we go:

Hey, what about that GOP elector from Texas who says he’s not gonna vote for Trump because he’s unqualified to be president?

Good for him for voting his conscience. So that’s one down. You’ll need, I think, 38 more to deny Trump the White House via the Electoral College.

Think it’ll happen?

No.

But it could happen, right?

Sure. But there’s a lot of air between could and will. I think you should at least make contingency plans for if it doesn’t.

So you’re saying there’s a chance.

Yes. There is also a chance you will win the lottery when you buy a ticket. You shouldn’t have “win the lottery” as your retirement plan.

Also remember that even if the Electoral College chooses not to elect Trump (unlikely) and doesn’t give it to Clinton (they won’t), then it goes to the House. If you think the House won’t give it to Trump, you think more of the House than I do.

Hey, Trump voter here.

Oh, hello.

What you think of the polls that say that something like 60% of Americans are optimistic about a Trump administration?

Good for them. I hope their optimism is not misplaced.

What I mean to say is, maybe you and your pals are all moody and depressed and doom doomy doom-laden for no good reason.

You know, it’s not outside the range of possibility that despite all indications, Trump’s administration will not be the horrifying shit-show that appears it is going to be. In which case, great! At this point I would personally settle for “not a horrifying shit-show.” With that said, it’s easy for me to settle, financially-secure straight white man that I am. Bear in mind that even in the best-case scenario, I think the Trump years will be harder for a lot more people than the Clinton years would have been, both economically and otherwise. “Not a shit-show” is speaking generally. Specifically, a lot of people are going to be in the shit. Some of them will have voted for Trump.

You could be wrong!

I’ve been wrong before, certainly.

Any thoughts on Al Gore meeting with Trump?

If it helps us from baking in our own juices any sooner than absolutely necessary, I’m okay with that.

You heard that Ivanka was in on that meeting, right?

I did.

And?

I’m not Ivanka’s biggest fan, and I find the basic trend of Trump installing his children (and children-in-law) into (unofficial) positions of power appalling. With that said, a) Ivanka is clearly the smart one in that family, b) She’s possibly the only one that isn’t 100% an opportunistic grifter, c) she’s possibly the only one who is both vaguely liberal and capable of long-term thought. In the nepotistic shit-show that will be Trump White House, if she’s the voice of sanity that will keep Trump from pissing all over the Paris Accords and otherwise hastening our global climate mess, well, work with what you’ve got.

What happened to resisting Trump by any means necessary?

I’ve talked about the issues of pragmatic governance in the age of Trump before, and at the moment I’m no closer to a good answer about it than I was then. I can’t imagine there won’t be policies and practices of the Trump administration that should be met with anything other than pure and righteous defiance. But, look: If Al Gore (or anyone else) can get into the Trump White House to talk into the ear of, or to talk to Trump under the aegis of, the woman who Trump clearly trusts and loves and will take advice from more than any other, and the possible result is fewer policies and practices that should be met with defiance, I’m willing to not to castigate the person who realpoliticks that one out.

And yes, it sucks. It’s not how it should work. Welcome to the Trump years.

What about Trump picking fights with China?

I don’t know enough about the politics involved with that to make any competent statements about it. I will say that taunting China without cause seems a dumb thing to do.

Hey, Ben Carson. 

Yes, what about him?

Picked for HUD because, like, he’s black, yes?

I do expect that’s part of it. But remember last week, when I said that the criteria for Trump’s cabinet picks is that they are “rich, loyal and fundamentally disagree with the mission of the governmental department they will soon be in charge of”? There you go. That Carson is also fundamentally unqualified for the position is kind of a bonus (for the administration, not anyone dealing with HUD).

So it’s basically been a month since the election, yes?

Four weeks to the day, indeed. A couple more days until the full month. But close enough.

Still pissed off? Depressed? Annoyed?

Yes, although most of those are tempered at this point, because a month is a long time. I find it largely embarrassing at this point that Trump is going to be president. Also at this point I think I’ve got him pegged: Thin-skinned, crass, easily-persuadable, corrupt and contemptuous, all of which are confirmed on a daily basis by his personal actions and administrative choices. I’m not happy about a Trump presidency, but I think I’ve got most of the dance steps down.

There’s still huge uncertainty, of course — not in how Trump will react to things (horribly, because he’s horrible), but what things will be out there for him to react to. Friend and foe have the man marked, the same as I do, and soon we will find out how they play him, and by extension, play the US. Whee!

How else has the incoming Trump administration affected you?

On a practical level, not too much. As noted before, I finished most of my substantial work for the year prior to the election, and much of the work I had left was technical (i.e., editing, etc) which didn’t require creative muscles. Which is good, as I’m still unfocused on that front. I had a couple creative opportunities I had to pass on just because I couldn’t get my brain to buckle in. I strongly suspect that when I start in on the next novel (that will be in January, in case you were wondering), I’ll really have to enforce the “no social media until the day’s work is done” rule, because otherwise I’ll never get anything done. The election already dragged out the writing of The Collapsing Empire and contributed to me turning it in late (which I’ve made up for — slightly — by expediting edits), and I don’t want to make a thing of it.

On a planning level, it’s made a difference. I had a meeting with my financial adviser last week about where to put this year’s investments, a meeting which I had put off until after the election in part to see what happened to the markets (spoiler: They haven’t tanked (yet)). It also makes a difference in terms of what we’re planning for spending around the home and with family. We know we have a pretty large expenditure coming up — Athena’s college(!) — although how much that will be will depend on where she goes. That’s gonna get paid regardless, but everything else is up for discussion.

Mind you, don’t cry for us. Again, thanks to my extended book contract and our general financial policy of “save all the monies,” we’re gonna be fine, unless things get so bad for everyone everywhere that we’re dragged into the mess. I’ve mentioned before that we’re likely to be some of the people affected “last and least” by any Trump administration misadventures; that still stands.

Hey, Scalzi, anything else you wanted to say on the subject of “last and least”?

Ooooh, thanks for reminding me, fictional person asking the questions! In fact, I do. I’ve gotten some thanks over the last few weeks of writing these pieces on Trump, for being general calm and “sensible” (if swear-y). And while I appreciate that — I like being thought of as sensible! — remember also who I am, which is: financially-secure straight white dude. It’s easy for me to be calm and “sensible.” With respect to the incoming Trump administration, you really need to also be reading and hearing the folks who are not financially-secure straight white dudes, not all of whom are “calm” and “sensible,” and for very good reason, i.e., because the bigots inside and outside of the Trump administration have been emboldened to make life miserable for them. For starters.

Which is to say: Thanks for reading my thoughts about Trump and his party pals. I think I’m an okay starting place for such reading. But if your reading on it stops with me (or is otherwise limited to the folks who look/love/earn suspiciously like me), you’re not doing it right. Please get out there and read and listen more, and especially read and listen to the people for whom the incoming administration feels like a clear and present danger.

Are you going to keep doing these weekly wrap-ups of Trump?

No, actually I think this is the last one of these I have planned.

You’re not going to write about him anymore?

I didn’t say that. Merely that I’ll write about him and his pals when I have something specific to say about some foolishness they’re up to, and not necessarily in Q&A format.

But I like the Q&A format!

Well, of course you would, fictional question-asking person. You’re out of a job, I’m afraid.

The Trump economy claims its first victim!

Yes, I suppose it does. Sorry.

I Was Going To Write Something Thoughtful and Meaningful Today But Then I Thought, Screw It, I’ll Just Put Up a Picture of a Cat, Really, It’s All The Same, Isn’t It

So here you go. Merry December 3!

New Books and ARCs, 12/2/16

Whoa. It’s December, folks. How did that happen?

(Yes, I know. Go to November and keep heading on through.)

Here’s this week’s new books and ARCs. Anything here look tempting to you? Tell everyone in the comments!

Whatever Holiday Shopping Guide 2016, Day Five: Charities

For the last four days, the Whatever Shopping Guide 2016 has been about helping you find the perfect gifts for friends and loved ones. But today I’d like to remind folks that the season is also about helping those in need. So this final day is for charities. If you’re looking for a place to make a donation — or know of a charitable organization that would gladly accept a donation — this is the place for it.

How to contribute to this thread:

1. Anyone can contribute. If you are associated with or work for a charity, tell us about the charity. If there’s a charity you regularly contribute to or like for philosophical reasons, share with the crowd. This is open to everyone.

2. Focus on non-political charities, please. Which is to say, charities whose primary mission is not political — so, for example, an advocacy group whose primary thrust is education but who also lobbies lawmakers would be fine, but a candidate or political party or political action committee is not. The idea here is charities that exist to help people and/or make the world a better place for all of us.

3. It’s okay to note personal fundraising (Indiegogo and GoFundMe campaigns, etc) for people in need. Also, other informal charities and fundraisers are fine, but please do your part to make sure you’re pointing people to a legitimate fundraiser and not a scam. I would suggest only suggesting campaigns that you can vouch for personally.

3. One post per person. In that post, you can list whatever charities you like, and more than one charity. Note also that the majority of Whatever’s readership is in the US/Canada, so I suggest focusing on charities available in North America.

4. Keep your description of the charity brief (there will be a lot of posts, I’m guessing) and entertaining. Imagine the person is in front of you as you tell them about the charity and is interested but easily distracted.

5. You may include a link to a charity site if you like by using standard HTML link scripting. Be warned that if you include too many links (typically three or more) your post may get sent to the moderating queue. If this happens, don’t panic: I’ll be going in through the day to release moderated posts. Note that posts will occasionally go into the moderation queue semi-randomly; Don’t panic about that either.

6. Comment posts that are not about people promoting charities they like will be deleted, in order to keep the comment thread useful for people looking to find charities to contribute to.

All right, then: It’s the season of giving. Tell us where to give to make this a better place.