View From a Hotel Window, 8/15/15: Cleveland/Westlake

Parking lot? But of course!

(The room is lovely. I do not wish to imply complaint. It’s just that parking lots out my window really do seem to be a recurring theme this tour.)

Today! The Barnes & Noble in Westlake, OH at 2pm (i.e., not long from when I am writing this). Hey, they haven’t started playing college football yet, Ohio. Come on by.

Tomorrow! Lansing, Michigan — the state capital, no less — at Schuler Books and Music. 4pm! Please come see me. I do not wish to be all alone.

View From a Hotel Window, 8/14/15: Lexington

Another very fine parking lot. Which, you know, is perfectly fine with me, actually. I don’t demand gracious views from my hotels. I want a nice bed, a distinct lack of bedbugs and/or soiled linens, and an Internet connection. Everything else is optional. Also this hotel has the distinct advantage of being a minute’s walk from tonight’s event venue, which is pretty great. I’ve stayed here before. Can recommend.

On the subject of the “views from a hotel window,” I am occasionally asked if I’m ever worried that people will be able to stalk me with the pictures. No, not really. One, I have a lock on my hotel door. Two, it’s not like I’m the Beatles or One Direction. Hordes of screaming fans are not hovering in the lobby and needing to be dispersed by an exasperated cop or anything. I’m fine, really. Most of my fans are delightfully polite and save their moments of squee for the events. Which is the right place for it.

Speaking of which: Tonight, Joseph-Beth Lexington, 7pm. Come on by, we’re gonna have some fun. All the tour stops so far have been excellent and Lexington is always a great place for an event. If you’re in Lexington or the near environs, I hope to see you there.

Tomorrow: Cleveland/Westlake, 2pm at the Barnes & Noble. I don’t frequently get to northeast Ohio, so if you want to see me there, tomorrow will be the time. And place! Come on up. Cleveland rocks.

View From a Hotel Window, 8/13/15: Atlanta

Parking lots are beautiful, man. My event tonight is in Athens, GA, but my hotel room is in Atlanta, in part because it’ll be easier to get to the airport in the morning this way. Ah, tour logistics!

As noted, my event tonight is in Athens, Georgia, and although it’s being hosted by the fabulous Avid bookshop, it will be taking place at the very nearly Cine Athens theater. All the details are here; show starts at 7pm.

Tomorrow (Friday): I will be in Lexington, at Joseph-Beth booksellers. These are awesome folks and it’s going to an awesome time. Again, at 7pm. Please come and bring all your friends, most of your family, and also that one guy you just sort of tolerate.

View From a Hotel Window, 8/11/15: Memphis

This part of Tennessee is apparently quite lush. 

Reminder to everyone: Tonight! I will be at The Booksellers at Laurelwood! Event starts at 6:30pm. Don’t be late! You’ll miss the puppet show!

(Note: There will not actually be a puppet show. Sorry).

Tomorrow: Raleigh and Quail Ridge Books. There are a lot of reasons I really like North Carolina. You could be one of them.

The End of All Things is Out! The End of All Things Tour Begins!

Today is the day! The End of All Things, the sixth novel in the Old Man’s War universe and my eleventh novel overall is now out and available at your favorite local bookstore or online retailer. Get it! Get a copy for your friends! Get a copy for the people you would like to be friends with! Get it for people who are currently your enemies but with whom you hope for some sort of détente! Get it for your dog! Your dog won’t be able to read it, but it certainly knows when you are doing something nice for it! It will appreciate the thought!

Don’t get it for your cat. Honestly, like your cat gives a shit about anything.

And while you’re picking up The End of All Things, remember that my book tour starts today! The first four stops are Memphis (tonight!), Raleigh, Athens, GA and Lexington. If you are in or around those cities, please come to my events and being along every single person you know. It’ll be fun. And, because you’re making the effort to show up, I’ll be giving you something special: A sneak preview of “The Dispatcher,” the new novella I just completed that’s coming out later this year. Plus other cool stuff.  And yes, if someone brings a uke, I might even play it. You’ve been warned (please make sure it’s tuned). The entire tour itinerary is at that link above, or (if you’re on the actual site) in the sidebar for the duration of the tour.

Want a signed copy of the book? Order it from one of the bookstores I’ll be at for the tour, or visit or call up Jay and Mary’s Book Center in Troy, Ohio and order one from there — I signed a bunch of them yesterday.

I’m very happy with The End of All Things — it’s not the last Old Man’s War book ever (my Tor contract specifies at least one more), but it’s likely to be the last one for a few years. I think it leaves the universe in a good place. I’m excited for you all to read it. And I’m excited to see at least some of you on the tour. We’re going to have fun. So much fun. Like, nearly illegal amounts of fun. See you soon.

The State of a Genre Title, 2015

Eighteen months ago, as Redshirts moved from its hardcover era into trade paperback, I did an examination of its sales to the point, across all its formats, and chatted about what its sales meant, or didn’t mean, and what we could learn from the numbers. Last week, Lock In, my most recent novel (until tomorrow), transitioned from hardcover to mass market paperback, and I thought it would be interesting and possibly useful to do something similar with it. So I asked for numbers from my publishers. Here they are, up to July 31, 2015. The numbers are rounded to the nearest 100.

For those who choose not to whip out their calculators, that’s total sales of 87,500 copies in Lock In’s hardcover sales era, in hardcover, eBook and audiobook. Note the hardcover/eBook sales do not include the UK edition of Lock In, published by Gollancz, nor any foreign language editions. These are North American edition sales (Audible owns world English rights for its version, and so the audio numbers may include sales outside North America). Note also that the audiobook numbers are sales, not downloads, important because Lock In had two versions, and the pre-orders included both versions.

So, thoughts on these numbers.

1. 87.5k is a pretty healthy number for sales here. If you want to do a comparison to Redshirts, the total sales numbers are up (Redshirts sold 79.2k in its hardcover era), although Redshirts‘ time in hardcover was shorter, so in all it may be a wash. The distribution of sales is also a reminder that all sales channels matter — if I were to lose access to bookstore distribution, for example, I’d lose roughly a quarter of my total sales for this sales pass. If I weren’t doing audio, in this particular case (I’ll discuss this more a couple of points down), I would have lost nearly half.

This continues to be my major concern with digital-only self-publishing, incidentally: there’s money being left on the table if you can’t address all these sales channels. Most self-publishers (or micro publishers) don’t have access to bookstores, nearly all of which continue to operate on a “returns” basis. This is not about the ability to create a physical copy of a book; at this point that can easily be done with print-on-demand options. It’s about having the book already on the shelves, attractively packaged and ready to buy, when the customer walks into the store. If you don’t have that, you’ve largely lost out in that sales avenue. Likewise audio if you’re not there.

At this point in my career, I’m a four-quadrant author, which means that at the end of the day my income as a novelist comes out of four areas: print, eBook, audio, and foreign sales. For any one book or project, one of these might be significantly out of proportion to others, in terms of sales. But over the length of time, they’ve all tended to even out as backlist sales kick in and other factors come into play. At this time, and I expect still for a while to come, the best way to address all these markets effectively and consistently is to partner with publishers.

This doesn’t mean people can’t and don’t make money addressing only one or two of these quadrants — people do, and good for them. But I tend to think diversity in marketplace access allows both the ability to hedge when one sales channel underperforms, and allows for the happy possibility of overperformance in one of those quadrants adding to the bottom line — for example, several years ago The Android’s Dream outperformed in foreign sales (it was a hit in Germany, where it won the Kurd Laßwitz award), or The Human Division electronic sales (when you add in the sales of individual episodes) swamping the sales in every other quadrant, or, in this case, Lock In’s audiobook sales being a substantial sales driver for the novel.

Which is to say a writing career is not at all unlike a stock portfolio — diversify for long-term success.

2. So obviously the audiobook is a major factor Lock In’s total hardcover-era sales — 46% of total sales through the end of July 2015. As a point of comparison, Redshirts‘ audio sales during the hardcover era were 21% of total sales. So what explains the surge in sales, both in raw numbers and as a percentage? My guesses:

a) Audible creating a marketing event around Lock In having two versions, each with its own celebrity narrator (Wil Wheaton and Amber Benson);

b) Audible gaining the ability to pre-order titles and offering both versions of Lock In to people who pre-ordered;

c) Strong, consistent sales of my work in audio growing the overall audience for my work in that sales channel — an audience which has overlap with, but is not exactly the same as, my print and digital audiences;

d) General, overall growth in the audiobook segment of publishing, led by Audible, who is the segment’s market leader.

Also, you know. The book’s pretty good, and Wil and Amber’s narrations were just great. Which helped.

Add it all together and you get a solid hit for Audible, as my audiobook publisher, and for me as the writer. Most writers would be happy to get 41,000 copies their work sold overall in their book’s hardcover era; to have those come out of audio, in a nearly 1:1 ratio with print publisher sales, is I suspect unheard of.

What does this tell us (anecdotally) about audio? One, that genre work can sell very well indeed in the segment, which should be immensely heartening to authors in genre; two, that audio as a segment is growing and it makes sense to get into it if you can; three, that audio has its own audience, with its own sets of desires and expectations, and that’s something you’ll want to factor in as you create you work. At this point I absolutely give consideration to how my work sounds as well as reads — I’m starting to use substantially fewer dialogue tags (“he said,” “she said”), as an example.

This also goes to my argument of why working with established publishers can continue to have its advantages for writers. Audible (in my case, other major audio publishers in the case of other authors) has the wherewithal to get the best narrators, an entire marketing and PR staff and the ability to push a title in the space, in a manner and with the wide-band strength that it would be very difficult for me, as an individual, to do. They do it well, which is a thing, and they also do it better than I would, which is another, separate thing. I benefit, and reach an audience I wouldn’t otherwise, through their competence and expertise. Which is why I’m glad to be working with them.

Which suggests this is a fine place to bring this up: Last Friday I signed a multi-year, multi-book contract with Audible, who will be the audiobook publisher for the books that are to be published by Tor over the next decade. I’m going to skip over the fiddly details of that contract right, except to say that I’m very very happy with it, and also very happy to be working with Audible for the next decade. Like Tor, they are simply the best at what they do, and I like working with the best.

3. On the subject of Tor, how do I feel about the performance of Lock In, in the print and eBook editions? Short version: I am delighted with how the book did. Note well that the book is in many ways a departure from my standard science fictional remit, which is action-oriented space opera; even Redshirts has lasers and aliens and spaceships and explosions. Lock In: No lasers or aliens or spaceships. Relatively few explosions. Instead: a near-contemporary cop thriller with a gender-ambiguous lead and a heavy dip into issues of disability and social dynamics. And Tor’s marketing and PR helps it sell 46K copies in hardcover-era print, land on the NYT, USA Today, LA Times and Bookscan bestseller lists, get optioned for TV and earn a sequel? Hell, yeah, Tor rocked this one pretty hard.

I mean, I helped, too. Don’t get me wrong. But essentially I threw Tor a curve ball and asked them to hit it. They drilled it, and in the process both helped introduce me to some new readers, which is great, and to expand the parameters of my writing career, which is even better. Lock In was in many ways a case study of what it means to be John Scalzi, author. Now we’re sure that my name can sell more than just action-oriented space opera, and that Tor is good at selling me, not just a certain flavor of book by me. That knowledge is part of why Tor and I both decided that a long-term contract was in our mutual self-interest.

These numbers (along with the audiobook numbers) are also solid number to bring to the table when someone argues that science fiction “should” be about, or that the science fiction that really sells is [insert sub-genre of science fiction here]. I mean, guys: I sold nearly 90,000 copies, at a premium price, of a book that, again, has a gender-ambiguous lead and a heavy dip into issues of disability and social dynamics. Why? Well, because the book was fun, too, which doesn’t hurt. But also because the audience for science fiction and fantasy today is both diverse, in who it is, and diverse, in what it is happy to read.

This makes me happy as a writer. I love space opera, and trust me, you’ll be getting more of that from me — the 2016 novel from Tor, in fact, is currently scheduled to be a big ol’ epic space opera-y kind of thing — but I like the idea that I can write other things and that (with an assist from my publisher in marketing and PR) my readers will come along for those rides, too. It will keep my writer brain happy to mix things up. It also makes me happy as a reader, since it means that we have some more anecdotal proof that science fiction and fantasy doesn’t “have” to be one niche or another to sell. It can all sell. You just have to know how to sell it. Tor knows how to do that.

4. As a bit of inside pool, these numbers are again a reminder that Bookscan, the service that tracks book sales, is at this point a bit of rubbish when it comes to tracking sales across multiple formats and media. As of August 2nd, Bookscan has recorded 11,175 sales of Lock In, a number that is barely half of actual physical hardcover sales and a ridiculously small 12.7% of the book’s total sales.

Bookscan’s reporting of my sales is so wildly inaccurate, in fact, that it’s concerning to me as an author, because bookstores make orders based on its numbers. The general rule of thumb is that Bookscan captures roughly two-thirds to three-quarters of physical print sales, but in my case it doesn’t, and I have to suspect the same is also true of a number of genre authors, and not just science fiction or fantasy genre authors.

So, if you’re a bookseller: Hey! I sell pretty well! Stock all my books! Thanks. Genre authors: Check your actual sales alongside your Bookscan numbers. You may be surprised at what’s not there. And, finally, Bookscan: Please get your shit together if you’re going to continue to tout yourself as a reasonably accurate gauge of sales. Thanks.

(Also, and as an aside, the unreliability of Bookscan’s numbers mean that if you’re using them to snark on an author, you run a high risk of looking really very foolish. This comment goes out to all the Sad/Rabid Puppy partisans, who at the height of their silliness, waved around Lock In’s Bookscan numbers as evidence the book had failed and both Tor and I were in a panic about it, when in fact both Tor and I felt pretty damn good. We knew the actual number of units sold, and that Bookscan was capturing less than a quarter of Tor’s actual sales of the book.)

5. The really good news for Lock In? Everyone, including me, figures that its natural sales home will be in paperback. We’ll find out over the next couple of years if it’s true. In the meantime, these hardcover-era sales are give the paperback a healthy push out of the gate. Good luck to it.

“The Dispatcher” — DONE!

Hey, I finished a new writing project today!

It’s 23,000 words long, which means it’s a novella.

It’s called “The Dispatcher.”

And it’s —

wait for it

— urban fantasy.

YES URBAN FANTASY SHUT UP I CAN TOTALLY WRITE URBAN FANTASY Y’ALL.

Also? It’s pretty good.

Also also? Done before the deadline, which is tomorrow. Which is good because on Tuesday I start a three week book tour, and speaking from experience, writing fiction while traveling suuuuuuuuuuks.

When will you get to read it?

Well, that’s just it. You won’t. At least, not for a while. Because I wrote it for Audible. Which means it’s going to be an audiobook first. And then, later, we’ll bring it to print.

So when will you get to hear it?

That’s up to Audible. But the plan, as I understand it, is to have it out later in the year.

BUT! There’s a loophole to this. Which is, if you come see me on tour, and only if you come see me on tour, then you’ll get to hear me read the first chapter of “The Dispatcher.” Now you have a reason to come see me on tour! I mean, another reason. Yeah.

Anyway: Hooray! I’m done. Now to rest my wrists, eat celebratory sushi, and then sleep for ten hours or so.

Straight Outta Bradford

Beats (which means Apple) has created a page which lets you create your own album cover based on the artwork for Straight Outta Compton, the upcoming film about NWA, and one presumes also their debut album.

So, yeah, I played with it.

Yup. Life in the 45308, y’all.

That’s it for today. Have lots of stuff to do this weekend. Hope you enjoy yours.

New Books and ARCs, 8/7/15

The last collection of new books and ARCs for about three weeks, on account of my upcoming book tour. So enjoy this while you can! Anything in the stack that speaks to you? Tell me in the comments!

Ex’s & Oh’s

This is a fun song I’ve been hearing on the radio recently as I’ve been doing my travels. The video’s a little silly, but no less silly, I suppose, than many other videos have ever been. And the song is super-catchy in any event. Enjoy.

Tour Prepping and Notes

We’re just a few days out from the beginning of the tour for The End of All Things, so a few things about what will be going on here and other places whilst I am out and about.

1. First, the site won’t be going hiatus — I have seven Big Ideas scheduled while I’m out on tour and it wouldn’t be fair to them, and anyway, I like posting — but, as usual when I am out on tour, I’ll likely post rather less, and most of my personal posts are likely to be brief. Hey, I’m traveling and am likely to be slightly discombobulated most of the time I’m not at an event. If I go longer than brief, I’ll be babbling.

2. As usual with touring, the place where I’m likely to do most of my updating will be on Twitter. Because it’s damnably convenient, that’s why. If you’re not already following me and want to be as up-to-the-minute as possible on what I’m doing for the next three weeks, now would be a good time to follow me there.

3. Also as usual when I’m touring, for the duration of the tour (or more accurately, from mid-afternoon on the 10th until sometime early on the 28th) I’ll be stepping away from my email for the most part. Which is to say I might read email that’s sent to me, but probably not, and unless you happen to be my agent saying “everything is on fire call me now,” I’ll probably not respond (and if you were my agent, in that situation you’d be likely to call me anyway). So if there’s an email you absolutely want me to see before the end of the month, well, better send it soon. If you send it after the 10th, you’ll get my automatic reply reminding you of all this.

4. Finally, just a reminder: Please please please please please come see me on my tour, and bring a friend, or two, or seven. We’ll have fun like you wouldn’t believe. Believe it!

GamerGate Adds to Its Vast Warehouse of Stupid

So, this popped up in the “KotakuInAction” subreddit, i.e., “the place where GamerGaters who don’t realize GamerGate is sooooo 2014 hang out”:

Naturally, I had some thoughts.

Seriously, though. How these people get through life without poking their eyes out with spoons is entirely beyond me.

Hey, I Did a “How I Work” Feature on Lifehacker

In case you’re curious how I do what I do on a daily basis. And I know you are! Here’s the link.

Also, if you’re coming over from Lifehacker on the promise that I am hilarious, here’s a link to what happened when I installed Windows 10 on my laptop the other day. If that is not sufficiently hilarious for you, I am sorry. I suppose I am not actually funny at all.

Lock In Paperback Release Day + Tour Reminders + Other Stuff

Hey! I have things to say!

* First, today is the release day for the Lock In paperback (and associated eBook), so if you’ve been waiting for the novel to be released in this cheaper, more compact form, this is the day and you should get to it immediately and avoid the rush. You hate the rush! I know that about you. It also makes a lovely gift. Please buy it, is what I’m saying. Mortgage, etc. You know.

* Second, a reminder that on this day next week the hardcover of The End of All Things is released and I begin my book tour, starting in Memphis, Tennessee, thence to Raleigh, Athens, Lexington and many other cities in these fine United States of America (the link above lists them all). As previously promised, I will be reading new and exclusive material on the tour, which you will not be able to hear if you do not come to the tour stops, plus other bits. It will be fun and you will have a good time. Please come and bring along every single other person you have ever met in your life.

* Speaking of The End of All Things, here’s a fine review of it in the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi and Fantasy blog. “John Scalzi delivers a rollicking good time,” it declares. And it’s true! I think I am well known for delivering the rollick. And yes, “rollick” is an actual word. You can look it up.

* Still on the subject of The End of All Things, a note regarding the electronic release of the extra, alternate chapter included in the print edition of the book (and I believe the compiled electronic edition of the novel): It’ll be released electronically — and for free — a couple of weeks after the release of the hardcover. So if you purchased the episodes, you’ll still get the extra stuff. Free! Promise.

* A quick plug for a book I am associated with: The fabulous and multiply award-winning and nominated Paul Cornell’s short story collection A Better Way to Die came out yesterday here in the US and the UK (Amazon links there), and is well worth your time. I’m associated with it because I wrote the introduction. If you like good science fiction and fantasy — and I suspect you might! — then this is a short story collection you want to know about.

And with that I’m off, to sign a big ol’ stack of books for people who pre-ordered The End of All Things through Subterranean Press. See you all tomorrow.

TEoAT Locus Review + Hugo Voting Closes

The new edition of Locus came out yesterday and features a review of The End of All Things — a space opera/milSF book, genres which, you may recall, the magazine has been lately accused of never reviewing — and I found the opening graf interesting:

Just for a moment, let us put a pin in all that Scalzi has done and has come to represent – all of the multi-million dollar contract, all of the SJW hooha, all of the hanging out with Hollywood geeks – and pile all of that baggage someplace else for just a few minutes. Can Scalzi still tell a good story?

Ha! Well, it’s a fair question.

The good news is, at least for this reviewer (Adrienne Martini), the answer is yes; review is positive, and the novel is found to be “perhaps, the most Heinlein-esque of Scalzi’s novels.” It’s never a bad day for me when a science fiction book of mine is (positively) compared to Heinlein’s work.

I don’t think it will surprise anyone that I agree with the reviewer about what’s actually important here. At the end of the day, the salient question for a potential reader for my work is whether I tell a story worth their time — and also, their money. As long as I’m doing that the rest is sideshow. Now, of course, personal tastes come into play, and people will like my work or not, depending. But on this end of the computer screen, at least, I’m always writing something I would want to read. And I like a good story. I think that helps.

Also, you know. I’m not stupid. The foundation to my success as a novelist — and the reason for the contracts, and the Hollywood stuff, and the obvious envy of some very silly people manifesting as the equally very silly assertion that not being an actively bigoted jackhole is somehow a contemptible way to live — is the fact I’m pretty good at this storytelling thing. Without the storytelling thing, all the positive stuff is at a high risk of going away. So, yes. I’m going to stay focused on the storytelling thing, as long as I am able. On my end of things, at least, this is not a particularly complicated question.

Tangentially related to storytelling, and success, the voting for the Hugos this year has officially closed, and people are pinging me, wondering how I voted. I’ll say this much: I voted my conscience, which I encouraged everyone to do. In my case this means a) that in at least one category, all the Puppy nominees finished above “No Award,” b) there is at least one category where my ballot was “No Award” up top and everything else left off the ballot, c) I don’t think there’s ever been a year where I haven’t left something off the ballot and/or below “No Award,” so in that respect this year was not in the least bit exceptional.

It does seem to me that the all the Puppy bullshit ran down and out of steam there at the end; at a certain point there was nothing left to say, there was just the voting, and you voted or didn’t. The last bit of nonsense I saw from the Puppy environs was some of their nominees rage-quitting the Hugos and deciding to “No Award” themselves, and at least one of them saying that was the plan all along, because apparently when you have no idea what you’re doing, every outcome, no matter what it is, is a victory condition. At which point you just roll your eyes, pity the sad and meaningless sort of existence where being the turd in the punch bowl is a legitimate life goal for a presumably adult human, and move on.

In any event, the award ceremony is three weeks out; we’ll see what happens then.

Backstage at the Concert Against Humanity: A Photo Set

Last night I participated in the Concert Against Humanity, a comedy and music event put together by the fine folks at Cards Against Humanity, mostly because, as far as I could see, it was something they felt like would be fun, so why not? And I have to say I can’t argue with that line of reasoning.

In addition to doing my own set with Pat Rothfuss (in which we read skits about science shows and super villains) and cutting down Indiana governor Mike Pence with a lightsaber — look, the dude was a Sith, he had to go — I spent time wandering backstage with my dSLR, capturing pictures of the performers and crew and recording a bit of what it’s like to be on the other side of the stage for an event like this.

Curious to see how it all went down on the performer side? I’ve put together a Flickr set for the whole show here. Click through and check it out. It’s the closest thing to being on stage, and I should know, since at least a couple of times I was actually on the stage with my camera. Enjoy!

New Books and ARCs, 7/31/15

The last day of the July, and we have an especially large haul of new books and ARCs for you to admire here. See anything here that begs to be on your own personal bookshelf? Tell me in the comments!

And a reminder: If you are in Indianapolis, for GenCon or any other reason, I and several other awesomely funny people will be on hand for hilarious hijinks tonight at the Concert Against Humanity. I believe there may still be a few tickets left — go get them!

Born That Way, Or Not

Was pointed today to this interview with developmental psychologist Lisa Diamond, on the subject of sexuality, and additionally, whether it matters whether people who identify as gay or bisexual are “born that way” or not. She takes the position that ultimately it really doesn’t matter:

It is time to just take the whole idea of sexuality as immutable, the born this way notion, and just come to a consensus as scientists and as legal scholars that we need to put it to rest. It’s unscientific, it’s unnecessary and it’s unjust. It doesn’t matter how we got to be this way. As a scientist, I think it’s one of the most fascinating questions out there and one that I will continue to investigate. As a lesbian and a progressive, I think it’s totally irrelevant and just politics.

I don’t know if in fact Diamond is correct, but I’ll note that for a very long time now I’ve personally held the position that I don’t care why or if someone decides to love someone of the same sex (physically and/or emotionally and all the stuff in between), simply that if they do, that love should be respected, legally and socially. I think it’s entirely possible that some people are “born that way,” that some people become that way through environment (Diamond notes that “environment” should be considered a term rather more expansive than “how you grew up and with whom”), and that others might have become so by a combination of both, or some other factor entirely. Ultimately it doesn’t matter, outside of a dry and somewhat abstract set of academic questions. However you got there, you got there.

Diamond also talks about sexual fluidity, which “means that people are born with a sexual orientation and also with a degree of sexual flexibility,” which is to say (at least as I understand it), you know your general sexuality, and you also know how much leeway you give yourself inside of that understanding. So for example you might identify as straight but be willing to acknowledge that every once in a while you find someone of the same sex attractive, or gay but with occasional hetero crushes, or bisexual but with a lean one way more than another on average. Or, you know, you might identify as something rather more expansive than that.

This also makes a great deal of sense to me. People have been talking about the Kinsey scale for years, but I find that sort of linear sexuality tracking a little limiting. I picture it as multidimensional with a number of axes: Gay-straight might be one; sexual-asexual might be another; conservative – opportunistic might be a third. A guy who is largely straight but highly sexual and somewhat opportunistic might not turn down a same-sex encounter because, hey, sex; another man who is gay but closer to asexual and conservative might turn down the same opportunity.

These three axes are not necessarily the complete set, I would note; likewise I would note that not every dimension of sexuality has the same range on every person. And finally, of course, one’s understanding of one’s sexuality may change over time — again for various reasons.

All of which is to say, sexuality: There’s some complex shit going down there.

And all the more reason, from the point of view of social and legal acceptance, not to actually care how someone arrived at their sexuality. The law should care if sexual encounters are consensual; society should discourage (to use a word mildly) non-consensual encounters. Other than that, you know, fair play.

Note that I think that people should know, as much as they are interested in the subject, the hows and whys of their own sexuality. I think knowing who you are and what led you to that understanding is useful to help you avoid behaviors that aren’t good for you, and to help you find which ones are. But your personal knowledge of yourself is different than society or the law demanding you are who you are, sexually, is because of one factor exclusively, or more than another, in a precise recipe. You should care about your sexuality. I’m not convinced the law or society needs to care anywhere as much.