Category Archives: Uncategorized

That Time I Remixed a Depeche Mode Song

More than a dozen years ago (yikes) Depeche Mode did a contest where they invited people to remix their then-latest single “I Feel Love,” for some prize I do not remember because, yeah, like I was going to win. Nevertheless I’m a Depeche Mode fan and I thought it would be fun to take a crack at it. I posted the resulting remix before, but now I have the ability to do the little clicky streaming thing, so I thought I’d post again. Here you go.

And for compare and contrast, the original single.

(I did not, in fact, win the contest. Oh, well. At least I had that writing thing to fall back on.)

A Question For Discussion This Fair Evening

Which is:

I was at the dentist’s yesterday to get a small filling done, and while I was there the dentist, his assistant and I had a discussion about painkillers, and the fact that some people — not a huge number but not an infinitesimally small number either — prefer not to use them when getting their teeth drilled. The thinking there, as far as I can tell, is that the momentary displeasure of a high speed drill on your tooth is not worth either a needle being jabbed into your gums, or having half your face numb for a couple of hours, or both.

I personally think this is incomprehensible — please, numb me up and numb me up good — but I’m also aware that my tolerance for pain is not, shall we say, Olympic.

So let me ask you: When at the dentist, do you prefer to be numbed up into oblivion? Or do you prefer to ride it out without the Novocaine? Or does it depend on the procedure? I’m genuinely curious. Let me know in the comments.

Monty Python and the Holy Livetweet

Or, what I did with my Wednesday evening.

Meanwhile, at the Scalzi Compound

No school today because of cold (and likely no school tomorrow, since it will be even colder), so what better day for Athena to run about in Unreal Tournament 2004, killing bots? None! None more better, I say!

Also, Unreal Tournament 2004: Still the best arena shooter, especially if you don’t actually want to play against other humans, because they are usually irritating butt monkeys.

In fact the last couple of days, when I’ve not been writing on The End of All Things, I’ve been playing video games, which explains my scarcity here (I’ve most recently been playing Dishonored, if you’re curious). I’m probably going to give games a couple night’s rest, however, because my wrist is reminding me that mice aren’t actually good for it, especially when I play obsessively for hours at a time. RSI, man. It’ll get you.

How are you?

Author Cat is Authorial

“What? Why yes, I am writing up a little something, just a novel that will forever change the way people — and by people I mean cats — think about the world, the universe, and existence itself. I call the novel Tuna With Thumbs. No, you can’t look at it. It’s not done, and anyway you’re a human. It just wouldn’t be the same.”

Everyone’s a writer in this house, it seems.

SF/F Authors/Editors/Artists/Fan Creators 2015 Award Awareness Post

For the last few of years, after noting my own award-eligible works, I’ve posted another thread for other folks in the science fiction and fantasy field to make potential award nominators aware of their works and/or personal award eligibility. It turned out to be pretty useful, so I’m doing it again this year. Right now! In this comment thread, even.

So if you’re a science fiction and fantasy author, editor, or artist: Tell us what works of yours (or if you in yourself) are eligible for award consideration this year. The site gets many thousands of visitors a day, many of whom nominate for Hugos/Nebulas/Other genre awards, so it’s a decent way to get the word out.

And now: Rules (posted word for word from last year)!

1. This thread is only for authors/artists/editors to promote their own works (or in the case of editors, the works they have edited). This includes people eligible for “fan writer” and “fan author” categories. If you’re not an author/artist/editor promoting your own work, don’t post on the thread. I’ll be doing a general recommendation thread later on in the year. Any comment not by an author/artist/editor promoting his/her own work will get snipped out. This is to keep the thread useful both to creators and to folks thinking about nominations.

2. Also, to be clear, this thread is for works of or relating to science fiction and fantasy. This includes Young Adult works and SF/F fandom-related works. If you’re not sure your particular work is eligible for awards this year, please check; this includes folks who are self-publishing. A general rule of thumb is that works published in the 2014 calendar year are eligible for consideration for this year’s awards nominations.

3. Authors/Artists/Editors: Feel free to either list your eligible works in the comments and/or link to a blog post outlining your eligible works, if you’ve already done the latter.

4. If you list your work, please also mention the category you expect it will be eligible in, to help folks with their nomination choices. My assumption is that generally speaking you’ll use the Hugo and Nebula categories, but if another award has a category outside those, feel free to list it too (for example, anthologies). Note to short fiction writers: This will be especially important for you to do this because people may not know whether to file your work into the short story, novelette or novella categories.

5. If you want to include links to your works, please feel free, but be aware that posts with many links may be initially punted into the moderation queue. Don’t panic when that happens, I’ll be going through regularly to free them. HOWEVER, please make sure that before you post, you check all your links and formatting.

6. One post per creator/editor, please.

So: Authors! Artists! Editors! What do you want people to keep in mind for this awards nomination season?

New Computer Update

I bought my new desktop computer recently, mostly because the old one stopped working, but also because I wanted to get a reasonably tricked-out computer to play the latest generation of PC video games. I got one of these, and a 4k monitor with “G-sync,” which helps to prevent tearing of the image on the screen as it redraws the image. And then I got Wolfenstein: The New Order, the Nazi-snuffing FPS that came out last year, and ran it on pretty much max settings across the board, to see how the computer and monitor handled things.

The verdict: I’m pretty happy. WtNO is pretty graphics intensive and there’s always a lot happening onscreen at any one time, and the rig kept up with everything without a hitch. Likewise, the g-sync seems to be doing its job pretty well — I haven’t noticed any tearing and jaggies. There’s a minor drawback to the monitor, if you want to call it that, in that it’s capped to a 60-times-a-second refresh rate; some gamers want a much higher refresh (theoretically, my computer can refresh some games a couple hundred times a second). Personally, I think 60fps is more than ample for my needs, and being coupled with 4k graphics is pretty damn immersive. I have no complaints on this end.

(Also, WtNO is a pretty fun game. I like first person shooters that are challenging but not impossible, and which let me kill bad guys by the trainload; this one does that and as a nice bonus has a story that doesn’t completely suck. And of course you can’t go wrong with blasting Nazis. My complaints with the game have to do with the fact that it like so many other games these days doesn’t let me save my progress when I want to, and that boss battles, of which this game has several, kind of bore me. On the former, I feel I’m on the side of the angels — damn it, this is a PC, and I have a keyboard and a 2TB hard drive; let me save whenever the hell I want. On the latter, I don’t expect many people are with me. Oh, well.)

So, pleased by my purchase and happy to have be more intensively playing newer games again. Now, excuse me. I have to bring down a sixty-foot Nazi stomping machine.

In Today’s Episode of “John Scalzis Who Are Not Me”

Please meet John Scalzi the professional boxer, having a fight in 1996. He’s in the red and he’s fighting against Kenny Caraballo in blue.

Spoiler: Scalzi (14 – 37), a welterweight, loses, although this particular fight doesn’t seem to be part of his official record. Caraballo, his opponent, would have a very short but reasonably impressive pro career: three fights, all won by TKO.

It’s funny what turns up on YouTube, basically.

The 2015 Awards Consideration Post

Another year, another post to let those of you who vote for Hugos, Nebulas and other science fiction/fantasy awards know what I have have that is eligible for your consideration. This year, here are the goods:

Best Novel

Lock In, Tor Books, August 2014; Patrick Nielsen Hayden, editor.

Best Novella

Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome,” Tor.com, May 2014; Subterranean Press, October 2014

Aaaaaaand that’s pretty much it from me this year (which is not nothing, mind you; it’s more than 100,000 words). I did also write a super-short story for Popular Science (I think it was about 400 words) and of course wrote that erotic Watchmen fan fiction for the Shipwreck event. As fun as they are I’m not recommending either for award consideration. I thought I might also have a graphic novel and video game available for you in 2014, but they’re arriving in this calendar year. They’ll be worth the wait, however.

That said, for Hugo voters, allow me also to commend to you, in the category of Best Related Work, the song “Lock In,” music and lyrics by William Beckett, released to YouTube in August, 2014, and as a single in October 2014 by Equal Vision Records:

It’s really good, folks. I would be delighted to see it on the ballot.

In addition to reminding folks of the work I have out there, I generally put up a space for other folks eligible for award consideration to remind people of their work. I’ll put that up on Monday. Look for it then!

Output, Appearances, Plans, Resolutions, 2015 Edition

Plans! Dreams! Physical manifestions, in text and flesh! For 2015, here’s what I got so far.

Output:

These are confirmed, i.e., have solid publication plans/dates.

  • If all goes well, sometime very soon, the videogame Midnight Star (which I did the worldbuilding for) will be available worldwide on iOS, with other platforms to follow.
  • Immediately prior to Midnight Star, the prequel graphic novel Midnight Rises, which I wrote, will likewise be available, also on iOS, with other platforms following.
  • The End of All Things, the new novel in the Old Man’s War universe, and the immediate followup to The Human Division, will be out mid-year, first in digital serial version and then in hardcover.

These are unconfirmed, i.e., scheduled to be written this year but no solid publication plans/dates.

  • A novella, which will have its initial release on Audible as an audio presentation. Depending on when it’s done, for the second half of 2015 or first half of 2016.
  • A different novella for Subterranean Press. No release date yet.
  • A short story I’m co-writing with a friend, in part to see what co-writing with someone is like. It’s already claimed but I don’t know the release date.
  • And, you know. I’ll probably write a science fiction novel in there, too, and it will probably come out in 2016.

These are things I’m thinking of doing/may or may not do, depending on various events falling one way or another.

  • I may (co-)write a script, either for one of the shows based on my books currently under development, or just for the practice.
  • Likewise, if one or more of the shows under development gets greenlit, I may be busy with executive producer duties.
  • A YA novel (I’ve been thinking about this one for a while now)
  • A non-fiction book, either humorous or on film. Or maybe a writing book. It’s been eight years since Coffee Shop came out. Hmmmm.

Things I won’t be doing:

  • Interpretive dance.
  • A musical.
  • An album of classic metal songs, performed on ukulele.

Appearances:

As always, you can visit my Scheduled Appearances page for details. At the moment, confirmed events include Dearborn, MI, Greenville, OH, Perth and Melbourne in Australia, and Charlotte, North Carolina. It’s likely I will add Chicago and Spokane to the schedule (for Nebula Weekend and WorldCon, respectively), possibly Los Angeles (for the LA Times Book Festival) and there are a few other dates I’m mulling, but nothing else is confirmed at the moment. When they are, of course, I will let people know.

Oh, yeah: I’ll also be on a boat the first week of February.

General Resolutions:

  • Schedule my time better. This is becoming increasingly important as I travel more and have more things I’d like to do.
  • Exercise more. I’m getting older and I want this body to actually last.
  • Write a little more here on Whatever; last year it wasn’t precisely neglected, but I at least noticed that all my travel and other events had an effect on it.
  • Read more things that are not the Internet. Rumor is, I have many friends who write. Perhaps they have books I would enjoy reading.
  • Indeed, do more things that don’t involve the Internet; it does feel like it sucks away a lot of my time these days.
  • Family and friends: Be there for them and with them.
  • Did I mention scheduling my time better? Yes, that.

So, those are the plans for 2015 at the moment. I have a whole year to see how much of it actually gets done. Looking forward to it.

Old Man’s War, Ten Years On

Ten years ago today, Tor officially released Old Man’s War into the world, and so today is my official ten year anniversary of being a published novelist, and the anniversary of my entrance into the ranks of professional science fiction writers. Note that this “official” date is all kinds of leaky; Old Man’s War was popping up in bookstores a couple weeks before the actual pub date (which was fine by me because holiday sales), Tor bought the book from me two years before that, I had one science fiction story published in Strange Horizons in 2001 (which at the time did not qualify as a “pro” sale by SFWA), and of course in 1999 I self-published Agent to the Stars on my Web site (and serialized OMW on it in 2002).

Be that as it may, when I think of my professional science fiction career launching, January 1, 2005 is the date I think of. So there you have it.

It has, unambiguously, been a good ten years for both me and the book. In the case of the book, it was nominated for the Hugo and got me nominated for the Campbell (the latter of which I won that year), topped “best of the 21st century” lists from Locus and Tor.com (caveats on those here), spawned a very successful book series, which includes New York Times bestsellers and Hugo nominees, has been translated into 21 or 22 languages at this point (I’ve lost count), been optioned for TV and film, sold well in its first year and continues to sell, very well, year in and year out. It’s my most successful book, and I suspect likely to be the one I’ll be remembered for when all accounts are tallied and closed out.

Which, of course, is perfectly fine by me. A couple of years ago, when I was on the JoCo Cruise for the first time, I sat on a panel of writers, and an audience member asked the panel whether any of us ever worried about being thought of as a “one hit wonder.” My response was to say that I had that “one hit” in Old Man’s War, and what that “one hit” had done was to offer me the sort of notability and stability that allowed me to write pretty much whatever I wanted from that time forward — it was the foundation on which everything else good in my fiction writing career was built upon. Having “one hit” isn’t a curse unless you want it to be. It can be an opportunity for many other things.

As it has been for me. Old Man’s War, and the fact that creative and cool people doing interesting things really like the book, has opened up a whole lot of doors for me. I’ve gotten to do any number of things I never would have been able to do, and gotten to meet so many people I like and admire, because of that novel and what’s flowed from it. Old Man’s War changed my life, and for the better, and I love that it has.

(With all that noted, it doesn’t feel like ten years has passed. But then I suspect on a day to day basis it never really feels like time passes; it’s only when you look up and note a milestone that you tally up the distance. I’ve gone from being one of the proverbial new kids in science fiction to arguably embodying the current iteration of the genre’s “establishment,” with all the positive and negative connotations that such a thing has. I’ve been in the genre long enough now that I’ve been considered an influence to some, and everything that’s wrong with the genre today to others. I have no control over either, so I tend not to worry about them, although I do admit to sometimes going out of my way to annoy the people who don’t like me, and gleefully so. It’s a weakness.)

Ten years on, I think OMW has aged pretty well, although there are some things I think show its age a bit, like calling portable information devices “PDAs,” which was a term with some currency in 2001, when I wrote the novel, and none whatsoever now. Nevertheless I’m kind of stuck with it for however long the series goes. I might also retool Sgt. Ruiz’s speech to the cadets, although it would still end the same way (with the Willie Wheelie scene). Also, knowing what I know now, i.e., that the book would spawn a series that would span a decade and six books to date, I might have spent a little more time making Earth feel more future-y, and less like the Earth of 2001 plus a single space elevator.

(I will note that a few years ago, when Newsweek went all-digital, I got ribbed for having a physical copy of the magazine in the book’s recruiting station. But now here in 2015, Newsweek sells print copies again! I am vindicated.)

What I am most proud of OMW, ten years on, is simply the fact that it seems to have stayed. Which is to say that people still read it, people are still discovering it, and people are still sharing it. Not every book does that. I’ll go ahead and take some of the credit for that — it’s a pretty good book — but I’ll also go ahead and reiterate something I always point out, which is that OMW had a considerable amount of luck going for it. Its persistence on bookshelves and in the science fiction conversation was in no way predestined or certain (nor was mine, to be sure). I am grateful for that luck, and the opportunities I have had to build on it, both with OMW and its series, and with the rest of my career.

So, if you ever bought or read a copy of Old Man’s War, thank you. You’ve helped to make this last decade wonderful. I am most appreciative. Here’s to another decade — or two! Or three! Heck, five or seven or ten! — in each others’ company.

(P.S.: Curious what my thoughts were on this five years ago? Here you go.)

My Own 2014

Well, you know. It was all right.

Career-related highlights: Lock In came out and hit the NYT and other hardcover bestseller lists, which was nice. It also sold very well in other formats, including audio, where (or so I was informed) it’s become Audible’s number one pre-ordered audiobook ever, no doubt helped by the dual narrations from Wil Wheaton and Amber Benson. It also got some of the best reviews on my career (including a starred review trifecta from Publishers Weekly, Booklist and Kirkus), and ended up on a healthy stack of end-of-the-year “best of” lists.

Unlocked, the companion novella to Lock In, did pretty well, too; the Subterranean Press signed, hardcover burned through its limited run impressively quickly, and it got pretty good reviews from Publishers Weekly and other places. Aside from those two, I placed a short story in Popular Science, which is kind of a kick. And of course The Human Division came out in paperback.

Oh, and Lock In, Redshirts and Old Man’s War were all optioned for television.

So, yeah. 2014 was pretty okay, there.

Creatively speaking, I have to say I was pleased with the general reaction to both Lock in and Unlocked. Several reviewers noted that the book was a bit of a departure for me, subject-wise. I don’t know that I think that’s entirely the case — outside the Old Man’s War universe my science fiction output is reasonably broad — but I think it’s correct I’m best known for writing the military space opera of the OMW series. I’m glad people seem happy to go along for the ride even when I’m not shooting aliens with big guns.

I’m also happy that the issues of disability politics in both Lock In and Unlocked were picked up on, acknowledged and discussed. As I’ve noted elsewhere, I don’t flatter myself to be an expert on these issues; nevertheless I hoped to offer an at least somewhat realistic presentation of how people with Haden’s, the disease in the book, would interact with the world and see their own disability (including whether they considered it a disability at all). So I pleased that it became a topic of conversation, with regard to these books.

(I was also very pleased about that other thing I did with Lock In, and how people responded to it — or didn’t, which was a thing in itself. I’ll note this thing is something that certain cranky folk in science fiction/fantasy argued was just the sort of thing that never sells and murders careers. Well, obviously, I don’t know about that. What I think on the matter is that, in fact, you can write whatever the hell you like, however the hell you like to, and you’ll very often get lots of people to come along if you’re also entertaining enough about it.

However, as at least some of the people who believe this thing murders careers also appear to believe I am at the center of a grand publishing conspiracy to overinflate the number of books I sell, possibly for nefarious, politically correct purposes, I’m not sure my counter-argument here will be particularly convincing to them. I’m okay with that. People who have to develop such infantile-yet-baroque conspiracy theories about the current state of my career deserve the angina these conspiracy theories provide them.)

Books aside, the thing that distinguishes 2014 for me is the sheer amount of travel I did in it. The travel was primarily for two purposes: One, to sustain the momentum of Redshirts, which won the Hugo in 2013, and to sell Lock In. The former took up a lot of the first half of the year; the latter, the second half. The good news is that by and large the “get your ass out there” plan worked like it was supposed to.

The less good news is that, bluntly, it’s messed with my ability to focus on writing. I announced I started writing on The End of All Things in May; this turned out to be, uh, optimistic. I’m still writing it (and what writing I did in May has largely been chucked, which means that those of you who heard me read that excerpt of the book on tour will probably be the only people to hear it, since it’s not in the book anymore). This is something I obviously need to deal with, since touring and public appearances really are key for me and yet I still have to write books. These are the proverbial high class problems — “Oh, no! Touring and appearances and being treated like a rock star make it hard to focus on my art!” — but yeah, still actual problems.

(Don’t worry, The End of All Things will still be turned in on schedule. Because if years of journalism taught me anything, it’s that you don’t miss deadlines. Also: It will be awesome. Promise.)

Moving away from career stuff and into the personal realm, and speaking very generally because there’s only so much about my personal life you get to know about — 2014 was actually really nice. Travel messed with my creative output a bit, but it meant that I got to see a lot of people I like/love/care about who I might have otherwise not seen if I had simply holed up in my office all year, including people I had not seen for a while and in some cases for decades. I wouldn’t have traded that. At home, with the exception of Ghlaghghee developing her heart condition, things are well, and I continue to be amazed that I get to be married to Krissy, and happy about how amazing a human my kid is turning out to be. I am, flatly, blessed to know and be with wonderful people, at home and in my travels.

So that was 2014. And now, onto 2015.

Pet Pictures 2014 (Plus Bonus Ghlaghghee Update)

Here’s Ghlaghghee resting in a papasan chair in the basement, which has, post congestive heart failure, become her favorite place to hang out. I’m fine with this because it’s only a few steps from the litter box, and given that the medicine we feed to her twice daily is a diuretic, this means that the incidence of Randomly Appearing Cat Pee is greatly lessened. Plus, she’s all comfy and cosy, and I like that. Sick kitty needs to be happy.

The good news is she’s still with us, which I would not have counted on a couple of weeks ago. The less good news is that for the rest of her life I’ll be shoving medicine down her throat twice a day, which means that two times daily she is very intensely pissed off at me for several seconds. Which is sad for both of us, but not as sad as, you know, her not being here. And so it goes.

With that said, it was a fine year for pet pictures here at the Scalzi Compound. Here are some of my favorites, including a couple of pets who aren’t ours but who happened to find their way into my camera’s sights this year. Enjoy.

 

 

Today’s Best Twitter Correspondence

As annoyed as I was with the trackpad, I can appreciate a wry reply from the company’s Twitter folk.

 

Hell Yes, I’m a Feminist

A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece on my personal feminism, in which I noted that while I can be considered a feminist on the fundamental level of “women are entitled to the same rights and privileges as men, with everything that implies in terms of access to education, economic opportunity and personal liberty,” I usually didn’t call myself one, for various and what I thought at the time were perfectly reasonable reasons.

Then 2014 happened, and those reasonable reasons now kind of feel like careful, rationalizing bullshit to me.

So, as an update to my thoughts on my personal feminism:

Hell yes, I’m a feminist.

Mind you, I don’t think this declaration comes as much of a surprise. I think people are aware of my general feelings on feminism, and I’ve not been shy about the topic before, when it’s suited me.

Here’s the thing about that — I was passive about it. When people said, positively, that I was a feminist, I took the compliment. When people said, negatively, that I was a feminist, I mocked them for thinking being called so was an insult. But I let them put the label on me; I didn’t choose it for myself. Which of course is a choice, and one that said something about me.

So this is what I want to say about me:

Hell yes, I’m a feminist.

Not a perfect feminist, or even, depending who you are, a particularly good one. I don’t expect declaring myself a feminist means I will be granted a +5 Ally Shield of Immunity From Criticism, with a side of cookies. I come to feminism carrying the same baggage any 45-year-old well-off straight white man does. I show my ass from time to time. I expect to be called on it when I do. I’ll try to learn from it when it happens.

That said:

Hell yes, I’m a feminist.

I don’t think feminism has been waiting for me. It doesn’t need me as a spokesperson or a leading voice. I don’t believe any woman has been wanting for me to be her “white knight.” As I’ve said before, it’s white knighting to assume women can’t defend themselves; it’s not white knighting to stand with them against the shit thrown their way.

But: I do think it’s important to let women know you do stand with them. I think it’s useful for other men to see it being done. To the extent that I have influence and notability, I’d like to use it standing with, and for, women. At the very least, 2014 showed me that it’s where I want to be standing, and to the extent that it’s useful, be seen standing.

So, for as much as it matters, and can matter:

Hell yes, I’m a feminist.

Sorry it took me so long just to come right out and say it.

Subscription Model Squabbles

So, authors, you’ll all remember when, in the middle of the Amazon-Hachette spit-fight, I noted that Amazon isn’t your friend, it’s a business entity with its own goals, which may only tangentially align with yours (and the same goes for Hachette)?

Surprise!

Authors are upset with Amazon. Again.

For much of the last year, mainstream novelists were furious that Amazon was discouraging the sale of some titles in its confrontation with the publisher Hachette over e­books.

Now self­-published writers, who owe much of their audience to the retailer’s publishing platform, are unhappy.

One problem is too much competition. But a new complaint is about Kindle Unlimited, a new Amazon subscription service that offers access to 700,000 books — both self­published and traditionally published — for $9.99 a month.

It may bring in readers, but the writers say they earn less. And in interviews and online forums, they have voiced their complaints.

Part of the issue, as I understand it, is that the payment Amazon doles out to many self-published folks who participate in Kindle Unlimited comes not from the percentage of a sale price, but from a slice of a pot of money Amazon decides to offer, called the KDP Select Global Fund. Here’s how it works, from the Amazon FAQ on the matter:

We base the calculation of your share of the KDP Select Global Fund by how often Kindle Unlimited customers choose and read more than 10% of your book, and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library customers download your book. We compare these numbers to how often all participating KDP Select titles were chosen. For example, if the monthly global fund amount is $1,000,000, all participating KDP titles were read 300,000 times, and customers read your book 1,500 times, you will earn 0.5% (1,500/300,000 = 0.5%), or $5,000 for that month.

However, as Amazon gets to select the size of the pot, and the share of the pot is contingent on performance relative to other titles, how much that cut is can fluctuate substantially, as is noted in the article. The article also notes that as the cut is the same for any read (i.e., a short story and a Rothfuss-sized epic novel are the same in the eye of the Kindle Unlimited clicker), authors are chopping up larger books into several files, or writing books as serials (looks like The Human Division was on target for that model).

Given the nature of the payment game here, this is a rational response, but it’s a short term solution at best, as it explodes the number of titles in Kindle Unlimited (and commensurately the number of titles read). As more authors catch on that particular trick, the less useful it will be for everyone. And while Amazon says it will tweak the size of the pot “to make participation in KDP Select a compelling option for authors and publishers,” inasmuch as self-published authors are already griping about how much revenue they’ve lost, the question becomes whether it will ever become a genuinely compelling option.

(Note well that these terms are as I understand it currently only for the majority of self-published authors. Publishers, who have more leverage on Amazon’s business, and certain (very few) high-profile self-published authors, are able to make deals that resemble traditional payment/royalty deals. They are not in the same payment pot as the hundreds of thousands of self-published authors, and they are not enjoined by exclusivity, as the majority of self-published authors are. Which if my understanding is correct is certainly an interesting point of data for those self-published authors.)

Does this make Amazon’s subscription scheme, or Amazon itself, evil? Nope. It does reinforce the point that Amazon has its own plans, which are not really about helping authors, per se. Its plans center on being the one single place everyone buys anything, ever. A $9.99 all-you-can-eat reading subscription plan with titles exclusive to Amazon is a fine way to lock consumers in the Amazon ecosystem. That’s Amazon’s job: to get and keep consumers’ business. It’s also the job of Oyster and Smashwords and other places that are also trying to make a go of the all-you-can-eat book subscription thing. What’s also their job: Getting the product that will enable them to reach their goals, and getting the product as cheaply as possible.

That said, the thing to actively dislike about the Kindle Unlimited “payment from a pot” plan is the fact that it and any other plan like it absolutely and unambiguously make writing and publishing a zero-sum game. In traditional publishing, your success as an author does not limit my success — the potential pool of money is so large as to be effectively unlimited, and one’s payment is independent of any other purchase a consumer might make, or what any other reader might read.

In the Kindle Unlimited scheme, the pool of money available to authors is strictly limited by a corporation whose purposes, short- and long-term, are not necessarily aligned with the authors’, and every time someone with a Kindle Unlimited account reads another author’s work, every other authors’ share of the pot  becomes that much smaller. In the traditional publishing model, it’s in my interest to encourage readers to read other authors, because people who read more buy more books — the proverbial tide lifts all boats. In the Kindle Unlimited model, the more authors you and everyone else reads, the less I can potentially earn. And ultimately, there’s a cap on how much I can earn — a cap imposed by Amazon, or whoever else is in charge of the “pot.” As an author, I won’t be able to ever earn more than Amazon wants me to (especially if Amazon requires my title to be exclusive).

So: Evil? No. Good for authors? Let’s just say I’m not entirely convinced. And neither, it seems, are these self-published authors. Good for them. I genuinely wish them the best of luck getting Amazon (and others) to pay them what the market will bear, and not just what Amazon wants to pay.

The Top Ten Whatever Entries for 2014, Plus 2014 Traffic

So, which entries on Whatever were the most popular in 2014, how was traffic to the site, and how was my general online reach? These all have interesting answers, or at least interesting to me. Let’s delve, shall we.

First, here are the top ten most-visited posts on Whatever in 2014, according to the WordPress stats package (caveats on that stats package to come). The entries with the asterisks are ones that were written before 2014.

  1. Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is*
  2. Being Poor*
  3. Amazon Gets Increasingly Nervous
  4. Apologies: What, When and How*
  5. The Four Levels of Discrimination (and You) (and Me, Too)
  6. An Anti-Feminist Walks Into a Bar: A Play in Five Acts
  7. 10 Things Teenage Writers Should Know About Writing*
  8. You Never Know Just How You Look Through Other People’s Eyes*
  9. How to Boycott Me, I Mean, REALLY Boycott Me
  10. An Incomplete Guide to Not Creeping*

This year’s top ten entries result is interesting to me, as I think this year is the first when the majority of the most visited posts were from previous years. “Being Poor” and “10 Things Teenage Writers Should Know” are perennially popular pieces, but most of the others are newish as repeats.

I think the particular archive pieces that made the list reflect that for internet culture generally, 2014 was a year where sexism and other bigotries were a thing. This hypothesis is augmented by the 2014-native popular entries as well, as well as reflecting my own personal writing interests this year. It also suggests that a lot of the power of Whatever, and the scalzi.com site in general, resides in its archives. More on this in a bit.

If I included only the pieces written in 2014, here are the six other pieces that would have made the top ten:

Again, a lot about sexism, and/or writing and publishing. It was that kind of year, it seems.

Moving along to general traffic statistics, the WordPress stats package notes that (minus the last three days and 18 hours, which have not happened yet), Whatever received 5.768 million visits, or roughly 15,971 visits a day. This is down rather a bit from 2013, in which the site got 7.572 million visits, averaging about 20,700 visits a day.

Additionally my 1&1 stats package, which tracks everything on scalzi.com that’s not on WordPress (including archived versions of Whatever that were on Moveable Type, etc), and which has no real overlaps with the WP stats package, recorded 4.188 million visits, which is also down from 2013, when it noted 6.13 million visits (The 1&1 stats, incidentally, are why you should take anyone else’s estimation of the traffic to this site with a fairly large grain of salt).

Some of this decrease I chalk up to me posting a bit less here this year, primarily due to travel schedules, and writing less about certain clicky subjects like politics, about which I wrote almost nothing this year at all. And some of it might be ascribed to blogs generally declining. And, of course, more specifically, maybe I’m just less popular as a blog writer than I used to be.

That said, there are other things to note here, not the least of which is that it appears that more of the reading of the content of the site is done off the site proper. A large portion of Whatever’s readership has always been through RSS, which is not noted by the WP daily reports (although if you dig you can find that information — for now, anyway, as the newly updated iteration of the WP stats package doesn’t seem to list that information anymore).

(Update: In the comments, it’s noted that Feedly, a leading RSS service, lists 8,000 Whatever subscribers. Which goes to my point nicely.)

The new WordPress stats package also notes something I didn’t know before, which is that that Whatever has (as of this moment) 12,242 WordPress followers, i.e., people for whom Whatever content is pushed to via WordPress, so they don’t have to visit the site to read it, which means they’re not recorded in the WP site stats. I also push Whatever content to Tumblr and Facebook, so people can read it there. I even have email subscribers (768 at last count).

Without discounting the decrease in visits to the site in 2014, it’s interesting to me that the decline of visits to the site does not necessarily mean that the posts themselves are not being as widely (or even more widely) read. If the decline in visits to the site proper is being compensated for by people following me via WordPress or other outposts, then I’m perfectly fine with that. I’m not like I’m pushing advertising on the site and losing money if people don’t show up there.

But it does also suggest that my Web site stats are becoming increasingly like my Bookscan stats. Bookscan, for those of you who don’t know, is a book sales monitoring service that tracks how many books get sold — but only at specific retailers, and only in specific formats. So, for example, Bookscan captured only about 20% of the total sales of Redshirts in its hardcover run. Bookscan, in other words, isn’t the whole story of a book’s sales, it just points in the direction of the whole story.

Shorter version of the above: Remember how I always note caveats when talking about site stats here? Those caveats have become even more caveat-y. It’s clear to me that the site states don’t offer a clear picture of how things of mine get read online, or by how many people. This is something I’ve already noted this year, mind you. Whatever is the starting place for much of my online presence. It’s clearly not the ending point.

Outside of Whatever, my primary social media presence is on Twitter, and it was a pretty good year there; I started the year with 55.2k followers and ended up with 76.1k, most of them, as far as I can tell, real live humans. According to ThinkUp, a service which tracks this stuff, I tweeted roughly 22,400 times, the most popular tweet of which was this:

Which got about 216,000 impressions, that being the Twitter term for views. It should be noted that most tweets I write get seen by less than the number of people who follow me, which makes sense if you think about it, since no one is on Twitter all the time, including me, and not everyone sees everything I tweet when they are online — they might be below the scroll, as it were.

Anecdotally, and not counting the tweets in which I am replying to someone (which tend to be seen by exponentially fewer people), a typical tweet of mine tends to garner about 15,000 impressions over the course of a day, with the especially retweetable ones pulling in 25k – 50k or so, and with occasional spikes of over 100,000 impressions (this one, from the other day, got 167k). I’d need a more complete set of data then I have to get more granular about it.

All told, an interesting year for me online. Let’s see what 2015 holds.

On Being Accused of Confessing to Awful Things

(Note: Folks who get triggery about discussions of rape should tread carefully here, both in the text and the links.)

Got a concerned email this morning from someone who saw online an assertion that I was a “self-confessed rapist.” I knew before reading further this was likely to be Theodore Beale (aka “Vox Day”) continuing to do his thing, and sure enough, yesterday on his site, Beale asserted once again that I’ve confessed to being rapist, as he’s done off and on for a couple of years now. So this is one of those “post once to link people to” things I do, in case it comes up again.

1. No, I have not raped or sexually assaulted anyone. No, I have not admitted to raping or sexually assaulting anyone.

2. Two years ago, I wrote a satirical (“satirical” not being the same thing as “funny”) essay called “A Fan Letter to Certain Conservative Politicians,” in which a rapist thanks certain conservative politicians for supporting his right to control a woman’s body. I thought it was fairly obvious that the piece was written from a fictional point of view, but despite that made it clear in the first post in the comment thread that the piece was satirical.

3. Nevertheless, after the piece was posted, Beale on his site asserted that I had confessed to being a rapist, based on the piece. It was pointed out to him that the piece was fictional, but Beale continued to assert I had confessed to being a rapist, and continues to do so, apparently, to this day. He also uses the nickname “McRapey” to refer to me.

4. At the time it’s possible he had confused the piece with being a confession; he doesn’t like me much (the feeling is mutual) and this would be something he’d get excited about. Two years on, it seems unlikely he is actually unclear that the piece was satirical. I assume at this point he does it to annoy me, to confuse people, and possibly to try to get the assertion that I am a self-confessed rapist into the Google results when people search my name.

5. Indeed, it is annoying. No one likes anyone out there so obviously lying about them; no one likes being defamed. But the defamation doesn’t appear to have gained much traction outside of Beale’s own site, probably because it’s clear Beale is making the assertion off a fictional, satirical piece, and because it’s also clear Beale has a thing about me, enough so that in 2013, I used it to raise tens of thousands of dollars for RAINN and other organizations. Likewise the assertion doesn’t show up in my Google results, or at least, not high enough to be an issue.

6. Aside from writing this to clarify matters, I don’t intend to do anything about Beale continuing to assert I have confessed to being a rapist. I could bring a libel suit against him, on the idea that accusing me of confessing to rape is defamation, it’s an untrue assertion, and Beale knows it’s untrue and continues to assert it anyway, for malicious purposes (the latter being important as I am likely to be considered a public individual at this point). However, I would also need to show that Beale’s actions have caused me harm, economically and/or emotionally. Aside from annoyance, which does not rise to actionable levels, I’m not seeing the harm to me personally. Essentially, Beale escapes punishment here because he’s failed to be important enough to be harmful.

7. I assume that for the foreseeable future, Beale will continue to lie about me confessing to be a rapist, for his own purposes. Again, annoying. On the other hand, useful. If Beale is perfectly happy to lie so baldly and obviously about this particular thing, perhaps that should be considered the baseline for the truth value of any other assertion that he might choose to make, particularly about people. Likewise, consider what sort of person you’d have to be to intentionally lie about someone confessing to rape, and to continue to offer up that lie for two years straight, despite knowing otherwise. Consider whether this person is worth your time at all, or your belief.