Category Archives: Uncategorized

How I am Spending My Saturday

I’m signing signature sheets for the Subterranean Press limited signed edition of Unlocked. The amount you see there is what I’ve signed so far; subtract that from the height of the box to the right, and the height of what you have left over is how much I have yet to sign. So the day will consist of me watching movies while I sign my name more than a thousand times. I’ll be pacing myself so I don’t end up being a hand cramp attached to a body. There are worse lives to have.

Hope your Saturday is awesome. See you tomorrow.

This is How You Handle Arbitrary Milestones on Social Media

And now you know. Go ye forth and do likewise.

Relevant to Recent Discussions

FTC alleges Amazon unlawfully billed parents for millions of dollars in children’s unauthorized In-App charges.

To quote myself: “[B]usinesses and corporations are not your friends. They will seek to extract the maximum benefit from you that they can, and from others with whom they engage in business, consistent with their current set of business goals. This does not make them evil — it makes them business entities (they might also be evil, or might not be, but that’s a different thing).”

Note that Amazon can and may fight this in court. Alternately, it may choose to settle out of court, admitting no wrong, and change its in-app policies consistent to what the FTC wants from them. Which will it choose? I expect whichever one is (all together now) consistent with its current set of business goals.

 

My First Job and What it Paid

Via Jim Romenesko, a question from The Billfold Web site about what people’s first jobs were and what they paid, and what that particular job pays now. Romenesko’s spin on the question involves journalism (because his site is focused on that field) and as it happens, that’s where my first post-college job was.

My first job as an adult, as many of you know, was as the movie critic for the Fresno Bee newspaper, a job I started in September of 1991 and left in February 1996. I got the job directly out of college (I was 22, making me the youngest full-time professional film critic in the United States at the time), and it’s not a knock on me to suggest that I was hired not only for my writing skills but also the fact that I could be gotten for super-cheap: My first year salary was something along the lines of $22,400 dollars, or about $430 a week, before taxes, etc.

And how did I live on $22.4k a year? Pretty well, actually. For one thing, I was a movie critic, which meant that a lot of my entertainment cost — i.e., going to movies — was taken care of. Likewise, working at a newspaper meant one could pick over the scads of entertainment product sent for review (books, CDs and so on), so the cost of those was also reduced. Also, I lived in Fresno, which is the butt of many jokes in California, but if you’re a 22-year-old making not a lot, also contained a lot of amenities of a large town (its population was 350,000 then and about 500,000 now) for a substantially lower cost of living than other large cities in the Golden State. Add it all up (plus the fact that I did not have expensive habits, like smoking or heroin), and I did okay for myself on not a lot of cash.

I don’t know how much the position is worth now — currently the Bee has one person, Rick Bentley, as both the film and television critic — but I certainly hope he’s making more than I was when I started. This survey suggests that journalists who enter into the field with a bachelor’s degree (which I did, although not in a journalism-related field) see a media salary of about $28,500 (or did in 2012, anyway). Adjusted for inflation, that’s quite a bit lower than what my $22.4k in 1991 was. Which sucks, but then: Welcome to journalism in the second decade of the 21st Century.

I’m happy to say that these days I make more than $22.4k a year.

(PS: My very first first job was working at Del Taco in Glendora when I was 16, for minimum wage. I came home every night smelling of lard and refried beans. I lasted about six weeks. That experience as much as anything else in the world convinced me to get an education beyond high school, because, seriously, lard smell, man.)

So: Your first job? Talk about it in the comments, if you like.

Dayton Appearance 8/2, Unlocked and Lock In Reviews and the Proverbial More

Things to announce and/or note today:

1. If you’re in the Dayton, Ohio area of things, and you want to see me do my thing prior to my book tour appearance in September, I will be at the Beavercreek Barnes & Noble on Saturday, August 2nd at 2pm. What will I do there? I will read! Probably from Lock In but also from other things. Also I will answer questions! Assuming anyone has any. And I will sign books! Which you can buy at that very bookstore, if such is your joy. I’ll be using this as a practice run for my book tour, so please come and watch me prepare. It’ll be fun. Promise.

2. There’s a quite nice review of Unlocked in Publishers Weekly this week, calling it a “skillfully written novella about one of the most fascinating SF scenarios created in recent years.” I am pleased. This review is tied into the Subterranean Press limited signed hardcover edition, so this is a fine place to remind you that this edition is coming, has a fantastic cover by Molly Crabapple, and that you can pre-order it right now. Also remember that if you can’t see me on my book tour, you can pre-order Lock In from SubPress, and when it arrives at your door, it will be signed by me.

3. Speaking of Lock In, a positive review of the book from SFReview.net is up, calling the novel “the kind of book a young Crichton might have delivered in his Andromeda Strain heyday.” I’ll take that. There’s also a video review of the book at the bottom of the linked review.

4. SFWA has reprinted my entry on self-publishing and Yog’s Law, so if you missed it the first time and don’t want to bother scrolling back, here it is over there. Enjoy.

So Here’s What Arrived at the Scalzi Compound Just Now

And if you’re going, hmmm, that looks awfully familiar, but I can’t quite place it, let me refresh your memory:

Yup, it’s the trade paper (and subsequent printed editions) cover to Old Man’s War, painted by John Harris, who has gone on to do all my subsequent Old Man’s War series covers. The painting went up for sale recently, and because I’m a fan of Harris and also it’s the cover to my first ever published novel, I inquired as to whether I could purchase it. Turns out, I could. This will be the second time I’ve purchased the Old Man’s War cover art; I also own the original hardcover edition art, painted by Donato Giancola. It’s nice to have them both under one roof.

This is a good time for me to promote once again Harris’ new book The Art of John Harris: Beyond the Horizon, which includes a foreward by me; it’s available in standard and special limited editions. It’s gorgeous (the pages linked are UK-specific but the book is available in the US as well). Also, here’s a discussion by Harris and me about some of the work that he’s done for my writing.

Anyway: I’m geeked out at the moment. I get to own this painting. How cool is that.

The Ways the Scalzi Women Are Better Than Me: An Incomplete List

Last week, as part of my general “try to lose weight and get a little healthier because you’re middle-aged now and you don’t want to die” thing, I started going to the local YMCA to use its weight room and indoor track, with my daughter as my workout partner. She’s been on the powerlifting team at her school for the last three years, so she’s knowledgeable about the weights in a way I am not, and is thus a good person with whom to work out. At the end of our first session, I tweeted the following:

This naturally aroused the derision of the hooting pack of status-anxious dudebros who let me live rent-free in their brains, prompting a predictable slew of tweets and blog posts about how this is further proof of my girly-man status, hardly a man at all, dude do you even lift, and so on. I noted this to my daughter.

Should it be a surprise that my daughter, who has been on a powerlifting team for three years and has taken medals at competition, can lift more than I, who has not seen the inside of a weight room since high school? I don’t think so; I think it would be mildly surprising if she couldn’t. She has training and endurance that I don’t. It’s also equally possible that even if she had not had her previous training, if we had gone into that weight room, she still might have been able to lift more than me. I would have been fine with that. If I keep at it, over time it’s possible I’ll lift more than she can. It’s also possible, however, that I won’t.

And if I never lift more than my daughter? Well, and if that happens, so what? One, I’m not sure why I should feel threatened or belittled by my daughter’s abilities of any sort. Call me nutty, but I want my daughter to be accomplished and capable, and even more accomplished and capable than me, whenever that’s possible. It’s a parent thing. Two, I’m not using the weight room to express my manliness, or as a zero-sum crucible to measure my personal worthiness against other human beings, because that seems, I don’t know, kind of stupid to me. I’m using it because I want to be in better shape than I am now. I fail to see how collapsing into a testerical pile of insecurity over the fact my daughter can lift more than I can will help me with my actual goal of becoming more fit.

Of course, it helps that I’m not one of those quivering bro-puppets who lives in constant fear that a woman might actually outclass him in something, and that if she does, it means that his balls have shrunk three sizes that day. This is a good thing, because in point of fact the Scalzi women, Krissy and Athena, are better than and/or outclass me in several ways. For example:

1. I’ve already noted that Athena out-lifts me. Krissy, it should be noted, is stronger than either of us; she is in point of fact unusually (I like to say freakishly) strong. I will note that I am perfectly capable, strength-wise; childish dudebro taunting online aside, I do fine for myself in that department and always have. Krissy has always been substantially stronger than I. It was never even a point of contention.

2. Krissy also has more physical endurance than I do. I was just joking to her today about the fact that if she lived 10,000 years ago, she would run down gazelles on the savannah because, like the Terminator, she would just keep coming. Again, I do just fine in the stamina department (anyone who has seen me dance for three hours straight can vouch for this). Krissy outclasses me by a mile.

3. Both Athena and Krissy are better shots than I am, Athena with a bow and Krissy with guns and rifles. And I’m decent with a bow.

4. Krissy is the financial brains of the Scalzi outfit, since both by inclination and by training (she has a degree in business) she has an analytical mind for numbers. I do my part on the business end — my very first published book was on finance, and I was a consultant for financial services companies over the years — but the day-to-day adminstration and planning fall to her, with good reason.

5. Athena writes better at her age than I did at the same age. It’s not even close. She will point out that she has the benefit of a parent who writes, with whom she can talk about both the craft and business of writing, and I cheerfully concede that point. Nevertheless, I’ve read her stuff, and I re-read the stuff I wrote at her age. My work at that age is pretty good. Hers is better.

6. Krissy is one of the best “straight-line” thinkers I’ve ever met; she can examine a situation, crystalize the issue and offer a solution quickly and dispassionately — and correctly. This is such a useful and critical skill that I actively spent years learning from her how to do it. I’m pretty good at it now. She’s still better, enough so that whenever possible, I always confer with her to double-check my own thinking.

I could go on — I could go on and on — but I assume you get the point.

Now, no doubt the status-anxious dudebros will delight in my shocking admissions here, because they are silly little boys who apparently think that a man who can happily live with, and help raise, women who are better at various things than he is (including things they entirely erroneously suppose to be inherently masculine) must be therefore weak and inferior and girly. Two points here.

One, there’s the obvious point that in the Scalzi household “girly” means strong and smart and capable and better than decent with ranged weapons. All of which I would happily be. So yes sign me up for girly please.

Two, and to repeat, these sad, frantic lumps of manflesh are proclaiming that a man who is pleased to share his life with women who are strong and smart and capable, and who has no problem acknowledging when their skills are superior to his, is somehow actually lesser for it. This should tell you all you need to know about the intelligence and sensibleness of such a world view.

I’m going to let them keep that silly, stunted world view. I’m going to keep mine. Because among other things, my world view has allowed me to share my life with, and share in the life of, the two best people I know: My wife, and my daughter. I am delighted in all the ways that they are the best, and also, better than me.

 

Question for the USA Folks, Re: Coins

Were you even aware they’re doing, like, a second set of state quarters? I got the one above in my change yesterday and at first quick glance I thought I’d been given a one euro coin. Which would have been an unusual thing in Bradford, Ohio, to be sure.

I think I remember hearing about this second set at some point, but it must have slipped my mind at some point. I think it’s probably because when it comes right down to it I don’t actually look that much at the coins in my pocket anymore. Particularly quarters, which these days I just assume have some bit of patriotic busywork on their backside.

So: Were you aware about this second round of state quarters? Apparently they’ve been going on since 2010. Man, I am clueless, numismatically speaking.

Amazon, Hachette, Publishing, Etc — It’s Not a Football Game, People

And now, some thoughts on subjects pertaining to publishing. I’ll use myself as an example for much of this.

1. I am in business with Amazon, though its Audible.com subsidiary. As you might be able to tell by my post yesterday, I am deeply happy with my experience working with Audible (and thus, by extension, Amazon). They’ve been a very good business partner to me.

2. I am also in business with Hachette, via its Gollancz imprint in the UK. I think what Amazon’s doing to US Hachette authors at the moment well and truly sucks. I heartily remind people that just because Amazon has been screwing these authors by making it impossible to buy their books there, doesn’t mean you can’t get those books — pretty much immediately — from all sorts of other retailers, including local bookstores. This might also be a fine time to install a Kobo or Nook or iBook app on your tablet or smartphone and diversify your eBook retailers.

3. I am in business with Random House, through its Heyne imprint in Germany. I have had an excellent business relationship with Heyne and think very highly of the people who work there. You may also recall that last year, when Random House attempted egregious bullshit with the contracts for their digital imprints Hydra and Alibi, I was happy to punch them in the throat for it, because they were trying to screw authors, no two ways about it.

4. I am in business with Macmillan, through Tor Books. As most of you know, I have been very happy with Tor, who treats me very well and who is very supportive of my career; I have the career I have because Tor has done well by me. What most of you may not know is that one major reason there was a three-year gap between Zoe’s Tale and Fuzzy Nation was because Tor and I had a substantial business disagreement, and I chose not to write new work for Tor for a while. The details of that disagreement are not important now — water under the bridge — but it was significant enough that I walked away from the company and worked on other things. Then it was done, we came to an understanding, and now we are working together again, quite happily.

What’s the point to all of the above?

Publishing is a business. As a writer, you are enaging in business with others, sometimes including large corporations. It’s not a team sport. It’s not an arena where there are “sides.” There’s no “either/or” choice one has to make, either with the businesses one works with or how one publishes one’s work. Anyone who simplifies it down to that sort of construct either doesn’t understand the business or is actively disingenuous, and isn’t doing you any favors regardless. The “side” you should be on is your own (and, if you choose, that of other authors).

These businesses and corporations are not your friends. They will seek to extract the maximum benefit from you that they can, and from others with whom they engage in business, consistent with their current set of business goals. This does not make them evil — it makes them business entities (they might also be evil, or might not be, but that’s a different thing). If you’re treating these businesses as friends, you’re likely to get screwed.

(And for God’s sake, don’t confuse being friends with people at those businesses with being friends with the business. I have very good friends at Tor. It didn’t stop me from having a substantial business disagreement with the company. Businesses aren’t your friends, even when they employ friends.)

Sometimes the goals of these businesses will align with yours. Sometimes they will not. And often a company that you’ve found yourself in alignment with previously will tack off on a different course, leaving you behind. Maybe you’ll realign at some later point. Maybe you won’t. If you’re under the impression that any business will always align with your own set of business goals, you are likely missing something. Expecting businesses that are not your own to act in a manner other than their own self-interest is likely to end in disappointment for you.

You’re allowed to think more than one thing about a company at the same time. I like what Amazon’s doing in the audiobook space, especially as it involves me. I think what it’s doing to Hachette authors sucks, in no small part because it happened to me, a few years back, when Amazon had a similar fight with Macmillan. Amazon has helped my career; it’s also made it clear to me that it doesn’t give a shit about my career when its interests are elsewhere. Amazon isn’t the only business partner I have that I can say that about. It’s clarifying, I will say.

Your business relationships are allowed to be complex, entangled and even contradictory. How do I feel about being in business with Hachette and Amazon? I feel fine about it, obviously. Likewise, I feel fine about being in business with, for example, Macmillan and Subterranean Press, both of whom have published the same work of mine, in different formats. I’m in business with a lot of businesses. I’m going to keep doing that, because I like to eat and I know where my ethical lines are. You can do this too. The person to decide what limits you choose to place on your business should be you.

Publishing is a business. I said that already. Guess what? I’m saying it again. If you’re not approaching it as a business, with the same eye toward your own business goals as those you’re in business with undoubtedly have on theirs, then when you find yourself completely at a loss and utterly dependent on the business choices of a company that fundamentally doesn’t care about you outside of a ledger entry, the amount of sympathy you’ll get — from me, anyway, and I suspect from other authors who tend to the business of their writing — will be smaller than you might hope.

Update, 7/10/14: An event relevant to this entry and discussion.

San Diego Update

So, a quick update about my presence at San Diego Comic-con this year, in the form of a dialogue:

Hey, Scalzi, are you going to be at San Diego Comic-con this year?

Sort of.

Define “sort of.”

I’ll be at various off-site events, including a reading at the Grand Horton Theater on Thursday afternoon (July 24, 1:30pm to 2:30pm). I will not be at the San Diego Convention Center or participating on panels.

Why is that?

Short version: SDCC’s public-facing harassment policy is not all it could be, which I should have checked when Tor asked me to go. I didn’t (the request came though Tor, not the convention, so I spaced, basically), so when it came up later I was all, “well, fuck.” I mentioned this to Tor, and Tor worked it so I’ll be doing things off-campus, at events surrounding the convention. Tor is awesome.

There’s a longer version than this (much longer), but I’ll save that for later.

So no SDCC for you.

No being on the convention floor or wandering the corridors or loitering outside of Hall H looking for movie stars, no. I’ll be signing books for Tor to give away at their booth; I’ll be signing those in my hotel room, most likely. Now, note: My reading is off campus but is affiliated with the convention, as I understand it. But in that case, if someone acts like a harassing asshole at my event, I can have them bounced and reported.

What else will you be doing? 

We’re still in the process of locking down other appearances and events; when I have the full schedule I’ll update. Trust me, even without steeping foot into the convention proper, I won’t be hard to find in San Diego.

The Lock In Audiobook: Two Versions, Two Narrators. Pre-Order and Get Both

I noted a while back that there would be an audio edition of Lock In, from Audible. What I had not noted, until this very second, is that Audible was planning to do something pretty neat with the audiobook: Namely, that it was recording two complete versions of the book, one narrated by Amber Benson, and the other by Wil Wheaton, and offering both for sale.

Why two versions? Because it’s a cool idea for this particular novel, for all sorts of reasons that I will leave for you to discover. I’m delighted that Audible has created both versions, and I’m especially happy that Amber and Wil are the ones bringing the book to audio life — I’m fans of each of them, both as performers and as writers. I’m about as excited as I can get to hear both editions.

Now, at this point you may be saying to yourself: You mean I have to choose between the Wil Wheaton version and the Amber Benson version? That’s too hard! They’re both too awesome! Don’t make me choose!

Okay, we won’t. Here’s what we’ll do: Pre-order either audio version of Lock In between now and August 22nd, and Audible will throw in the other version, free. Order Wil’s, get Amber’s. Order Amber’s, get Wil’s. You’ll get two fantastic interpretations of the novel for the price of one. Compare and contrast! Alternate chapters! Mix and match! Really, there’s no way to go wrong on this one.

Remember, however: If you want in on this — and if you’re a fan of audiobooks, you so very much doYou need to preorder from Audible by 11:59pm (Eastern) on August 22nd. Don’t wait! Don’t live your life in unfathomable regret!

I’m super geeked out about this. My thanks to the folks at Audible for doing this, and to Amber and Wil for being the voices of Lock In. This is really special. I can’t wait for you folks to hear them both.

(Note: US only for the time being. I know, I know. Sorry, the rest of the universe.)

The 2014 Lock In Tour + How to Get Signed Books (Even If You Can’t Make the Tour)

And here are the places, dates and times:

Tuesday, August 26th (7:00 PM)
Brazos Bookstore
Houston, TX

Wednesday, August 27th (7:00 PM)
BookPeople
Austin, TX

Thursday, August 28th (7:30 PM)
Quail Ridge Books & Music
Raleigh, NC

Friday, August 29th (7:00 PM)
Flyleaf Books
Chapel Hill, NC

Saturday, August 30th and Sunday, August 31st
Decatur Book Festival
Decatur, GA

Tuesday, September 2nd (7:00 PM)
Tattered Cover
Denver, CO

Wednesday, September 3rd (7:00 PM)
University Bookstore
Seattle, WA

Thursday, September 4th (7:00 PM)
Books, Inc.
Mountain View, CA

Friday, September 5th (7:00 PM)
Copperfield’s
Petaluma, CA

Saturday, September 6th (3:00 PM)
Borderlands
San Francisco, CA

Sunday, September 7th (5:00 PM)
Vroman’s
Pasadena, CA

Monday, September 8th (7:00 PM)
Mysterious Galaxy
San Diego, CA

Tuesday, September 9th (7:00 PM)
Prairie Lights
Iowa City, IA

Wednesday, September 10th (7:00 PM)
Lake Forest Bookstore
To be held at Warren-Newport Library
Gurnee, IL

Thursday, September 11th (7:00 PM)
Joseph-Beth Booksellers
Lexington, KY

Saturday, September 13th (Time TBA)
Jay and Mary’s Book Center
Troy, OH

Monday, September 15th (7:00 PM)
Brookline Booksmith
Brookline, MA

Tuesday, September 16th (7:00 PM)
Gibson’s Bookstore
Concord, NH

Wednesday, September 17th (7:00 PM)
Northshire Bookstore
Saratoga Springs, NY

Thursday, September 18th (7:00 PM)
Word
Brooklyn, NY

Friday, September 19th (7:00 PM)
Barnes and Noble
Philadelphia, PA

Saturday, October 11th
Books by the Bank Festival
Cincinnati, OH

Tuesday, October 21st (6pm)
The Seminary Co-op
Chicago, IL

Note: The Tor.com version of this listing originally had Troy, OH on 9/12. It’s the 13th.

So, 23 dates, (mostly) over four weeks of touring. That’s a lot. In fact, I think it’s my longest tour yet. I’m very excited to go out on the road. Expect me to sleep for a week when I get home.

Also, I’m very seriously thinking of making tour t-shirts.

And now, your anticipated comments and/or needs:

You’re not coming to my town! Sorry. 23 dates and four weeks is a lot. Good news: The Human Division Part 2 comes out next year and I’ll likely tour then, and try to get to towns that I’m not visiting this time around. So you might see me then.

If I’m coming to your town and you want a signed copy of Lock In: Come to the tour stop and I’ll sign your book! I’d appreciate it if you bought the book from that store. You don’t have to wait until I show up, mind you; you can pre-order from them or buy the book when it comes out. But either way please support the booksellers who are supporting me on this tour. It’s a great way to make them and me happy. I will also sign any remaining stock of my books at that store, so even if you miss the tour date, the store will still have signed copies of my books available.

Also, if I’m coming to your town, and you can’t make the tour stop but you still want to support your local bookseller: Order the book from the store and ask them to have me sign it when I’m there for the tour. I will happily do that, even if you are not physically present.

If I’m not coming to your town and you want a signed copy of Lock In: My friends at Subterranean Press will take your pre-order for Lock In. Before I go on tour, I will go and sign every single pre-order they get. When your copy arrives on your doorstep, it will have my signature in it. Easy!

(They will probably also have a few available after the book is out too, but if you want to be sure to get a signed copy, and you’re not at one of my tour stops, pre-ordering is wise.)

Short version: If you want to get a signed copy of Lock In, you’re totally covered.

If you have questions, let me know in the comment thread!