Whatever

A Jurassic Quiz: Find Out Which Dinosaur Will Eat You!

Over at Sundance.tv, where I am writing occasional things about film, I’ve created a quiz in honor of the upcoming Jurassic World movie, featuring somewhat obscure trivia from the first three Jurassic Park films. Get all of the quiz questions correct, and you survive. Miss one or more, and you get killed and possibly eaten by a dinosaur. Which dinosaur? It depends on how many questions you miss.

Ready to test your chances? Then here’s the link. Good luck, you’re gonna need it.

A Very Important Poll That Will Make You Think About How Fragile and Beautiful the World We Live in Truly is

Prepare yourself. You’re going to have to make a hard choice here.

Explain your answer in the comments. If you dare.

A Note on Money and Self-Censorship

A question in email, asking me whether the size and length of my book deal with Tor means I’m likely to be less loud on the Internet on certain topics. This comes in the wake of my post yesterday, in which I reminded people I’m not their Outrage Monkey and will choose the things I comment on (or not) online based on my own criteria and no one else’s. The e-mailer wondered if the deal (and the money it represented) would be part of that criteria. Which seems a fair enough question to me.

The short answer is no. The longer answer is not only is the deal not an impediment to me saying whatever the hell I please online, it could frankly be seen as the opposite — after all, I’m safe from having to look for a book deal for an entire decade. I really can’t be financially penalized for anything I might choose to say on my free time. The worst that could happen is that the books don’t earn out and I don’t get royalties, but that could happen for any number of reasons. I still get the advances. They’re contractually specified. This is why one has contracts.

But won’t my publisher lean on me to say/not say things? No. More accurately, in the fifteen years I’ve been writing books, across several publishers, none of them ever have, and I doubt they are going to start now. Why? Because, among other things, they don’t have a right to, and there’s nothing in my contracts that allows them to. Nick Mamatas (who is a book editor as well as an author) wrote up the other day a piece about why publishers usually don’t try to impose good behavior on their authors, which is accurate and which I encourage folks to check out. But even beyond certain legal and labor ramifications, the simple fact is “publisher” doesn’t usually mean “employer” when it comes to writing books, and it certainly doesn’t mean “parent.” I’m on my own recognizance.

Now, this doesn’t mean that I might not choose to recuse myself from one discussion or another if it involves one of my publishers; I might, because of any number of reasons, including that the discussion might involve personal friends, or that I might know things about the situation I can’t discuss publicly so it’s better I not comment at all, or, just, you know, I don’t wanna. All of which is fair. The good news is, other people will be more than happy to take up the slack when I choose to sit out.

But in point of fact me holding off for financial reasons from saying anything I damn well please is simply not likely. I mean, it didn’t stop me before, when I was only on one or two book contracts, or before I had any book contracts at all. It’s not going to stop me when I have a whole friggin’ decade before I have to think about hunting for another book contract again.

So, yeah. No silence has been bought. If I’m not talking about something, it’s because I chose not to talk about it, not because my book publishers have paid to keep me quiet.

A Refresher Course On What I’m Obliged to Write About

So, a couple of days ago, a bigoted shithole of a human being took a screenshot of something Irene Gallo wrote on her Facebook wall some time ago and decided to deploy it at a specific time in order to gin up some outrage, which ended up with Irene making an apology for calling some people Neo-Nazis (when, in my opinion, it was merely some of them who could have been more accurately called bigoted shitholes), and Tor, her employer, also issuing an apology. Both Irene’s original statement and Tor’s apology have been the subject of much discussion online, Irene’s statement because even bigoted shitholes and their intentional allies (not to mention some genuinely innocent folks unintentionally or unwittingly dragooned into the bigoted shithole’s little schemes) prefer not to be called Neo-Nazis, and Tor’s statement because (for starters) it looks like Irene was hung out to dry by the company.

Up until this particular moment, I’ve been relatively publicly silent about this hoofraw, and for that fact, I’ve been getting some stick in some quarters, some from people who wanted me to address Irene’s comments, some from people who want me to address Tor’s letter, and some, I guess, from people who apparently just think I need to address every thing that happens on the Internet, because, I don’t know, maybe they don’t know what to think about a topic until I write about it. And indeed, there are some people who apparently believe that because I have not addressed these things publicly in a manner which they find suitable, I have been derelict in some manner, and this proves [insert whatever personal bugaboo they have about me].

So, clearly it’s time to remind people of some things.

1. I’m not your outrage monkey. I’m not obliged to participate in every blow up online, including the ones you think are relevant to my interests. Why? Because it’s my life, and that means I get to be in charge of what I respond to and discuss online, and what I don’t. You can have an opinion about me responding (or not), but I’m not obliged to care about that, or to agree with you that my response (or not) proves [whatever personal bugaboo you have about me]. As I’m fond of reminding people, there are three people whose opinion about me actually matters to me in the grand scheme of things: My wife, my daughter and (waaaaaaaaaaay further down, and relating only to writing) my editor. Everyone else: Meh. And to be blunt, if you’re the sort who will think less of me because I am not responding online to some thing you want me to respond about, you can put two heavy underlines below “I don’t care what you think.” Seriously, who even thinks like that. You might be a terrible person.

2. Large parts of my life exist outside of this blog and social media. And sometimes I will privilege those over addressing something online in what you might feel is a timely fashion. Why? Because it’s my life, and I get to make that decision, not you. And again you might feel that I should care about your opinion on the matter, but ask yourself: Are you my wife? Or daughter? Or my editor, with a concern focused on writing? If the answer is “no,” and it almost certainly is, then you don’t get a vote, no matter how much you would like one. My life isn’t a democracy.

3. I may choose not to address an issue in a manner you find satisfactory, or indeed at all. And why? Because it’s my life, and I get to make that decision (you may be sensing a theme here).  And I may have reasons for that, or none at all, or none that you may find satisfactory, and if you don’t like that, that’s totally fine, and not my problem in the least.

As an example, here are some possible reasons why I might not have chosen to address the Irene Gallo thing online in a manner which meets your exacting standards:

  • I was traveling when this all blew up and had to catch up before I could comment on it;
  • It was an event that involved someone I consider a friend and I didn’t want to address it before talking to her;
  • I had someone very important to me pass away, and that’s messed me up emotionally, and I didn’t want to comment on this because I didn’t trust myself to be rational about it;
  • I had work and business issues which I have not been discussing online, which I needed to address and which took priority;
  • I decided “fuck it, the Internet can get along without me for this one”;
  • As someone who can privately talk to people directly involved, I chose to do that rather than splotz my opinion online;
  • I decided I didn’t want to give more oxygen to a bigoted shithole and his shitty manufactured outrage;
  • I fell down a well and have been replaced by a colony of hyperintelligent bees, who despite their intelligence don’t understand this human concept of outrage at all and are struggling mightily to learn;
  • I didn’t want to annoy a company which is going to give me a ton of money over a decade;
  • Excessive personal ennui.

Which of these reasons is the reason I haven’t spoken on this subject in a manner which you find sufficient? Any one of them, or more than one in some combination, or possibly all of them, or possibly none. Unless I choose to tell you, and I’ve decided I won’t, then you won’t know (I will, suggest, however, that the one about the bees is unlikely, although that is what a hive of superintelligent bees would say to avoid detection, now, isn’t it). Or it might be for another reason entirely — say, that I knew if I did, that I would have to also deal with all the nonsense that comes with me speaking about anything online these days — or it might not be for any reason at all. Hey, sometimes I do or don’t do things without giving it any real thought. You never know! And while the reasons for not publicly addressing a particular subject will change from issue to issue, the overarching point that I may have reasons not to publicly address an issue will remain.

And again, you may find these reasons, or my choice to explain them or not, sufficient, or you might not. Which again is fine, and also again not anything I’m going to particularly care about. Again, you don’t get a vote.

4. The Internet doesn’t need me to weigh in on everything. It certainly didn’t in this case — there were more than enough people willing to engage both Irene’s initial comment, and Tor’s letter about it and the aftermath. In the former case, here’s something by Eric Flint; in the latter cases, something by Kameron Hurley and Chuck Wendig. These three are the figurative tip of an iceberg comprised of blog entries, comments, tweets and Facebook posts.

The Internet did not wait for me on this; it doesn’t wait for me on anything. Why are you waiting for me? I mean, thanks, I guess? It’s nice you want to know what I think? But I do hope you recognize the difference between you having an interest in my public thoughts on something — which is great! Thanks! — and thinking I’m obliged to share my thoughts on something in a public manner — which is not great, and which I don’t agree with.

5. All the above points are in effect until the heat death of the universe. In case you were wondering. And again, you may be unhappy with that. But again: I don’t really care.

Hope that helps.

The Big Idea: Beth Cato

In today’s Big Idea, Beth Cato challenges tradition in The Clockwork Crown, and creates a character that the rule books don’t ever seem to suggest can actually exist.

BETH CATO:

The Big Idea behind The Clockwork Dagger series is pretty straightforward: healers are heroes too, darnit. Not just sidekicks, but full-on protagonists.

I grew up on old school role-playing video games. In order to survive games like Final Fantasy or Dragon Warrior III, you needed a white mage, a cleric, some kind of magic user with healing power. They enabled your party to stay alive… if you could keep them alive. Because let’s face it, a white mage had the offensive and defensive skills of a paper bag. One solid thwack and they keeled over. You needed strong fighters up front to take the worst of the damage.

That’s the usual way of things with healers in games, whether the medium is 8-bit, Playstation, or MMORG. Healers are sidekicks. They buff the Big Damn Heroes and then cower in the back row.

Fantasy novels pretty much follow the same pattern. If the hero has some healing skills, it’s part of a demi-god prize pack of superpowers. It’s not their primary trait.

I searched for years for books that made healers into heroes. I didn’t find it, so I wrote it myself. I wanted a heroine who would stand in the middle ground between real world battlefield medics and the grand magical powers of video game clerics. She needed to be a warrior, but one who wielded herbs and compassion.

Meet Octavia Leander, the heroine of The Clockwork Dagger and the brand new sequel, The Clockwork Crown.

Since childhood, Octavia has understood that she’s different from most folks and even most medicians (magical doctors). When she’s near other people, she hears their injuries and diseases in the form of song and intuitively knows the right herbs to heal them. Through her magic she can even cause patients to float or create defensive barriers around them. Her heightened skills have made her an outcast among her fellow medicians. Even her mentor has succumbed to jealousy and turned against her.

Octavia’s physical strength is a more noteworthy attribute than her appearance. She can haul hay bales or drag a comatose body. She’s against violence, but if need be, she’ll defend herself. She’ll also rush to heal her assailant afterward.

During the events of the first book, Octavia’s magic changed in new, alarming ways and she realized she could become a deadly tool for the enemy. As the sequel opens, her powers have deepened in a manner that challenges her faith in the source of her power, a world tree known as the Lady. Octavia is on the run for her life as she’s caught in a vicious tug-of-war between terrorists and her own corrupt government. Everywhere she turns, there are assassins, kidnappers, and people who want to exploit her incredible magic.

Octavia is the kind of literary heroine I’ve searched for since my teens. She’s strong, compassionate, and resourceful. You won’t catch her cowering in the back row of battle. She’ll be on the front lines, her satchel at her hip, ready to fight Death one on one. And win.

The Clockwork Crown: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s | Indiebound

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow her on Twitter.

The Life of the Mind, Episode One of The End of All Things: Out Now!

Today’s the day! “The Life of the Mind,” the first of four novella-length episodes of The End of All Things, the new novel in the Old Man’s War series, is now out in electronic form and available at your favorite electronic retailer.

Here’s the official synopsis of the episode: “A down-on-his-luck Colonial Union starship pilot finds himself pressed into serving a harsh master-in a mission against the CU. But his kidnappers may have underestimated his knowledge of the ship that they have, quite literally, bound him to piloting.”

Here’s an excerpt from the story. And if you’re in the US, here are some stores you’ll find it in:

Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Google Play|iBooks|Kobo

In the UK? It’s also out there, with different artwork courtesy of Tor UK (the text is the same), and should also be available at your favorite eBook stores. In the rest of the world, the novella should be available in either the US or UK version (or both!). If it’s not at one of your local eBook retailers, be patient; it should be on its way.

Now, with the commercial preliminaries out of the way, what’s up in this novella?

1. Remember the cliffhanger at the end of The Human Division? Yes? Well, I waste very little time resolving it in TLoTM. Because you all have been waiting two years to find out what happens next, and because I suspect if I kept stringing it out some of you might decide to murder me dead. I don’t want to be murdered dead. So: Answers!

2. I introduce you to a new character, starship pilot Rafe Daquin. He’s the main character of this episode and will play a significant role in subsequent episodes. I like him a lot — he’s someone who gets put in a near-impossible situation and has to find a way, not just to cope, but to plot against his captors. We get to spend a lot of time in Rafe’s head, figuratively speaking, so I wanted to be sure he was good company. I think I pulled it off.

3. Yes, you’ll see some of your favorites from The Human Division in the episode as well (briefly). Plus action and adventure and the occasional deep thought, i.e., all the stuff you like about the Old Man’s War universe.

4. And naturally, the events in this episode set the stage for the next, “This Hollow Union,” which will be released next week.

I’m super excited for this episode to be out in the world, and I can’t wait for all of you to read it. Enjoy, and more is coming!

Jacqueline Kahn

My friend Jacqueline Kahn (pictured here with her husband Laurie, on their 60th anniversary trip) died yesterday morning. I want to tell you a little bit about her, and what she meant to me.

First, you have to know that in the 4th grade, I broke my leg. I broke it by hitting a moving Ford Pinto. Technically I was at a cross walk so I was not at fault, but there was a parked car directly in front of me and I ran out into the street, and the poor man who hit me couldn’t have possibly stopped in time. Regardless, my leg was well and truly smashed up, and I was in a cast and wheelchair for a big chunk of my 4th grade year.

The folks at my school decided it was not a great idea to have me tooling around the playground in a wheelchair, so for recess and lunchtimes I was carted into the school office, where Jackie was working, I believe, as a receptionist/secretary. I was ten and very very very chatty, so naturally I spent a lot of time blathering in her direction. Jackie, to her credit, was kind to me and talked back, rather than just genially ignoring me. Later, when my leg healed, I in my ten-year-old egotism thought that she would be sad that I was no longer there, so every day after that, as I headed to the bus to take me home, I would stop in and tell her a joke before I left.

I did that every single day through the end of my sixth grade year, my last year at elementary school. Most of the jokes were terrible. Jackie, bless her, continued to be kind to me.

And more than that. My mother went through a terrible divorce early in my sixth grade year, after which my mother, sister and I were briefly homeless, and then moved several times in the course of that last year, to cities other than Covina, which is where my school was. When we moved out of Covina, I should have no longer been able to attend Ben Lomond, the elementary school I was in. But of course I didn’t want that, and my mother didn’t want that, and I’m pretty sure that my mother didn’t go out of her way to tell anyone we had moved. But sooner or later it got out, and I think there was some question about whether or not I would be able to continue at Ben Lomond.

What happened then, as I understand it, is that Jackie said that if I was made to leave the school, she would quit her job.

And that was that. I stayed.

I didn’t know any of this at the time, of course. I learned about it much later. But I can’t tell you how important it was. As I said: Rough divorce, homelessness, and shuttling around to several houses, all in the space of a few months. We were terribly poor and because my mother had to find work where she could, when she could, I and my sister were left along to our own devices a lot of the time. What stability I had — honestly, the one place I could depend on not suddenly changing — came from my elementary school, where I had Jackie, my teachers (particularly Keith Johnson, my 6th grade teacher) and my friends. If I were to have lost that, among everything else I lost, I couldn’t tell you how I would have dealt with it. I suspect I would have dealt with it poorly. So I think I can say without exaggeration that Jackie’s act saved me, in ways I wasn’t aware of at the time, but am aware of now.

Jackie’s kindness to me didn’t stop once I left elementary school. We became friends and she was someone I depended on. She stayed in contact with me in junior high and high school. She took me to movies — a lot of movies, and good movies because she was a film buff — and let me visit her house, where she kept Corgis before Corgis were cool. In many ways she made me part of her extended family. I knew it and loved it, and thought of her in so many ways as another grandmother, equal to, and in most ways one I was closer to, then my own actual grandmothers.

In high school she read my stories and came to all the plays I was in. When I went off to college I would come back on holidays to see her and say hello. When it became clear Krissy and I were a serious item, I took her to Jackie’s house so she could meet her (she approved). She was there for my wedding. When I moved away she kept in touch with me through e-mail, sharing her own writing (she was a playwright, and a pretty good one) and keeping me up to date with her family, as I kept her up to date with mine. When my very first book came out, in 2000, I co-dedicated the book to her. She liked that. I knew she was proud of me and the life I’ve made.

And now she’s gone.

I had advance warning of this day, so I was able to prepare for it, which I think in many ways was a kindness. She was so important to me that having the news cold would have come like a hammer blow. Instead I had time to think of her and the totality of her life and everything I owe to her, in ways obvious and not so obvious, so that when this final door closed I could feel, not pain, but joy in a life that was well-lived and was generous enough to encompass me in it.

Jacqueline Kahn was a woman who was good to me as a child, a friend to me as an adult, and always, a home spirit — someone I knew cared for me, no matter what, and with whom I felt safe, and cherished, and loved. I love her, and will miss her, and will carry her and her kindness in my heart all of my days.

All my love now goes to her family, and to all of those who knew her and cared for her, and for whom she cared. May her memory be a blessing to each of them.

And thank you for letting me share a little bit of who she was with you. When you see me, you see a little bit of her in me. I’m glad of that. She was the best of people.

Weekend Updatery and Miscellaneous, 6/8/15

A catchall post for a few things. 

* I spent the weekend in Berkeley, California for the inaugural Bay Area Book Festival, and in my opinion the folks running it did pretty well for the first shot at the event. There were a few hiccups here and there, but by and large people seemed to enjoy themselves, and I’m happy to say my events were well-attended. My first event was a reading and Q&A, followed by a panel on climate change and fiction, which also included Paolo Bacigalupi, Edan Lepucki and Antti Tuomainen. I also got to see several friends there, which is always a joy, and on Saturday evening got to hang out with a bunch of writers, including Paolo, Kim Stanley Robinson and Karen Joy Fowler, discussing writing and publishing. It was a pretty nifty time, in short, and enough so that I didn’t mind several hours in the air, both ways, to be in the Bay Area less than 48 hours overall.

The picture above, incidentally, taken from the balcony of the University Club at the top of Memorial Stadium, where the book festival held a welcoming party for writers. It was a lovely time; I hung out with my friend Olivia Ahl (events coordinator for the Bellevue branch of the University Bookstore (that’s University of Washington, not Cal)), author Suzanne Young, and Wired editor Adam Rogers. I also met Otis Chandler, CEO of Goodreads, who also happens to be a fellow alumni of my high school, the Webb Schools of California (he graduated a few years later than I) and his wife Elizabeth. Otis and I talked obscure high school lore whilst everyone about us looked on tolerantly.

In any event, I thought the Bay Area Book Festival was a success, and can’t wait for future installments.

* Over the weekend I also ran a fundraiser for Con or Bust, in which I invited folks to post a picture of a happy puppy, and for every picture I would donate $1. As a result we got to see about three hundred different doggies in the thread, either pictured or linked to, which makes it arguably the most adorable comment thread in the history of Whatever. In the end there were 317 comments, some of which were repeats as people tried alternate methods to post pictures of their pups, but eh, I rounded up and donated $325 to Con or Bust. The donation is now already sent off, so well done, everybody. You and your puppies can be proud. Also, if you yourself are looking to donate to a worthy cause, consider Con or Bust. It’s pretty cool.

* On a (very) tangentially related note, Jim Hines did some yeoman work over the weekend doing a quick early history of the Sad Puppies, using their own words to help make the picture more clear for the confused, which at this point could be everyone. Jim somewhat mercifully skates over the part where Theodore Beale makes the Sad Puppies his arguably unwitting tools for his own purposes (i.e., the “Rabid Puppies” slate, aka the “Let me just use the Hugos to promote my own little not terribly successful publishing house here” slate), but it’s otherwise pretty comprehensive, and a good primer.

It’s not escaped notice that I’ve been slacking on my Hugo/Puppies commentary recently, but honestly at this point there’s not anything new for me to say. It’s a low-information movement begun in craven entitlement, with a political element tacked on as a cudgel, taken over by an ambitious bigot, and I’m sorry for the several excellent people I know who have gotten wrapped up in this nonsense one way or another. That’s pretty much where I’ve been on it for a while now. When I have anything new and useful to add, I’ll make note of it.

* So that we won’t go out on a low note, and to usher in Monday, may I present the following exchange between me and Chuck Wendig on Twitter, which to my mind amply explains why Twitter does and should exist:

And off we go into the week!

Nebula Award Winners, 2015

Cutting and pasting from the official release. Congratulations to the winners; this is a fabulous slate.

***

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America are pleased to announce the winners of the 2014 Nebula Awards (presented 2015), as well as the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, and the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Winners

Novel
Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer (FSG Originals; Fourth Estate; Harper Collins Canada)

Novella
Yesterday’s Kin, Nancy Kress (Tachyon)

Novelette
“A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i,” Alaya Dawn Johnson (F&SF 7-8/14)

Short Story
“Jackalope Wives”by Ursula Vernon (Apex 1/7/14)

•••
Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation
Guardians of the Galaxy, Written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

•••
Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy
Love Is the Drug, Alaya Dawn Johnson (Levine)

•••
2015 Damon Knight Grand Master Award
Larry Niven

•••
Solstice Award
Joanna Russ (posthumous), Stanley Schmidt

•••
Kevin O’Donnell Jr. Service Award
Jeffry Dwight

Picture Happy Puppies: A Fundraising Thread

I’m traveling today, but I have the urge to something that’s silly, fun and yet kind of useful. So here’s my plan:

Have a pup? Put a picture of it looking happy in the comment thread accompanying this entry (which is to say, put in a link to a .jpg; the comment thread should embed it automatically — direct links to the .jpg are best for this; links to pages on Instagram/Flickr/etc will just show up as the link). For every picture of a happy pup put in the comment thread before 11:59pm Eastern time June 7, I will donate a dollar to Con or Bust, up to $1,000. Con or Bust is a non-profit organization “whose mission is to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the production of and audience for speculative fiction,” which is a goal I am happy to support.

RULES/NOTES:

1. One entry per person. You can have multiple pups in your picture, or post more than one picture in your comment, but each counts as a single donation from me. Please don’t post more than once in the thread.

2. The pictured happy pup must be yours or your family’s. No fair looking on Google Image Search for happy puppies. “Family” in this case means immediate family, serious partners, or friends to whom you’d seriously consider donating a kidney.

3. Pups only. We can do other animals for other fundraisers another time. Also, comments that are anything other than a picture of a pup (including questions, commentary or criticism) will be excised out of the thread. All happy puppies! All the time!

4. Tell us a little about the happy pup. Because context is fun. This one is not required, but on the other hand I don’t think it’ll be a problem to get you to talk about your pup, now, will it.

5. Your picture will likely be held in moderation until I clear it. Don’t panic. This is to keep trolling of the thread to a minimum, and to keep inappropriate pictures off the thread. Pictures I deem inappropriate will be deleted (either in moderation or off the thread if they somehow got on) and will not count toward the donation tally. As I am traveling the next few days, there might be some delays in the picture going up. Please be patient!

Got it? Then spend my money! Let’s see those happy puppies!

In Which I Harangue Creative Types to Update Their Wills and Estates

Today my wife and I went into our lawyer’s office and updated our everything, including wills, living wills, donor registries and so on. Why did we do this? Because at this point in our life we have a fair number of assets, and given my recent deal, it’s likely we’ll have more in the future. Moreover, as a creative person, I have a considerable amount of intellectual property, which will need to be attended to if something should happen to me. If Krissy and I didn’t specify what was to become of all of that, it would be up to the state to deal with it. No offense to the state, but I don’t know it all that well. So Krissy and I have made sure that our own wishes for everything are in legal documents and up to date. Now there is no confusion about our wishes.

I frequently harangue writers and other creative types about financial issues, so allow me to do it again here: Creative folks, you must do some estate planning. You have assets. You have intellectual property. You (probably) have family or friends that you might want to have benefit from your work after you’re gone — and you might have some people (which may even include family) that you might not want to have a say in what happens to your work when you are dead. If you die — and you will die, one day! — and you have not left direction toward the disposition of your intellectual and real property, then someone else will make those choices for you. As a result, some of the people you would want to benefit might get nothing. Some you don’t want to get anything could get a lot. And in the meantime, it’s all going to be stuck in probate, which is fun for exactly no one.

No, it doesn’t matter if you’re young. Young people die all the time, and creatives are famously prone to bad habits that increase their risks (including, in the US, not carrying health insurance). No, it doesn’t matter that you’re not famous or that your work doesn’t have wide circulation. There are tons of artists who became far more famous (and rich!) after their death than before it. In my field, a fine example of this is Philip K. Dick, who struggled financially in life and has become a multi-millionaire in death as his stories have been turned into successful films.

And yes, it does matter to your legacy if you don’t give direction for what happens to your work after you die. Academic James Boyle notes that something like 95% of all copyrighted material since 1900 is “orphaned” — that is to say, material for which there is no clear owner (either an estate or designated individual), and so cannot be legally reproduced. If you want your work to be legally available after you die, the best thing you can do is leave clear instruction as to what or whom owns the rights (including, if you so desire, giving the work a Creative Commons license until it makes it into the public domain a ridiculously long time after you are dead).

Beyond that, I know personally writers who have died and whose families have decided to withdraw all of that writer’s work from the public sphere, forbidding reproduction or republication. In the particular case I’m thinking of, it’s almost impossible that this choice is what the writer would have wanted. But the writer never said in life what they wanted to have happen to the work, and therefore in death no longer has a say.

This is important stuff, people. I can’t stress this enough. And yes, it costs money, and yes, it takes time, and yes, you might think it doesn’t matter. But it’s worth the time and money, and if you believe your choices about your work matter while you’re alive, there’s no reason that they shouldn’t matter after you are gone. And if you have people you love and care about, whom you wish to see benefit from what you’ve created, then it’s smart — and kind — to make a document that makes your wishes clear and spares them the pain, aggravation and expense of having to deal with your lack of planning while you were alive.

So: The Scalzi Estate is now updated and planned for. Is yours? If the answer is “no,” ask yourself why not. And ask yourself if there is anyone in the world for whom a little bit of planning on your part would make their lives easier if and when you go. And then, go take care of this stuff. It matters.

The Big Idea: Joan of Dark

When I first got heavily involved with science fiction and fantasy fandom, I was surprised at how frequently I saw knitting going on at conventions and other geek events — which only showed how little I knew, as geekdom and knitdom always has significant overlap, and that  overlap has only grown over time. Now Joan of Dark (aka Toni Carr) has brought together the two in book form with Geek Knits, which features nifty knit projects for crafters, modeled by geek notables and celebs in photos by Kyle Cassidy (disclosure: I and Krissy are featured in the book). Here’s Joan to explain how the book got crafted in the first place.

JOAN OF DARK: 

“You know what would be cool?” I tend to say that sometimes to people, and miraculously, sometimes they listen. (This is why there is a roller derby knitting book in the world) I think the first time I uttered those words about Geek Knits was after a visit with Neil Gaiman, when he wore the softest, blackest angora sweater that a friend of his had made for him. As my companions and I were heading home I said, “You know what would be cool? A knitting book with novel writers and scientists and comic writers and you know, GEEKS wearing knit stuff. Really good photos too. A knitting book that could almost double as a coffee table book. That would be really cool.” I mused on it a little bit, mentioned it to friends, and tried to let the idea go while I worked on other projects.

Then I hung out with photographer Kyle Cassidy a few times, and mentioned the idea to him. We started running over our dream list of geeks to photograph and what we would have them wear. Then we started talking seriously, who did we know? And the people we knew, who did they know? Could we make connections and make this happen? How could we do over 30 photographs in less than a year without having to fly to 30 different locations? This was madness. So naturally, I pitched it to my agent. She agreed. Wonderful, magical, madness. Let’s do this thing!

Selling the idea of the book was the easy part. It’s difficult to narrow down an idea as broad as “Geek Stuff” when working on a pattern book. Should everything be cosplay, mostly unwearable in real life, and probably hard for the beginner or average knitter to complete? Or should everything be fairly simple, such as sweaters worn in the Harry Potter movies and scarves worn in Doctor Who? Or how about general geekiness like ties and pocket protectors? Obviously, part of the fun of making a book like this is making things that people want to recreate!

Luckily, I realized that trying to please everyone is a quick path to the bad sort of madness. I decided the best thing to do was to design the patterns I wanted to design, and enlist the help of other designers to bring some dimension to the book. Which is how we came to have wonderful things like a stuffed Bunnicula Vampire Bunny (permission granted by James Howe to make him), an amazing sweater inspired by the question “What would Molly Weasley knit for Arthur?” and Cthulhu gloves.

I wanted to bring my favorite ideas about knitwear to life. I love that knitting can be either average or absurd and no matter what, it is, it’s a work of art. A bit of string looped around some needles becomes a sweater! Sure, a sweater is a pretty basic piece of clothing, but to those who know the hours it takes to create one, it’s sort of an amazing concept. Then there’s the slightly absurd. Could I design a knit fez? Could I get my talented designer mother to create a snow beast balaclava inspired by the alien that scared me in Star Wars? These are things most people aren’t going to throw on when they run out to the grocery store, but they fall into the “so weird it’s wonderful” category for me.

My initial idea, the “You know what would be cool?” concept of getting geek celebrities to do the modeling was almost as hard as the designs themselves. Writing to my heroes and asking if they would mind being a little silly, donning socks and hats and sweaters for my knitting book. Those were pretty tough emails to write. Luckily I have friends, and friends of friends who helped make connections. Even luckier, I realized that lots of celebrities don’t mind being silly. Paul and Storm serenading a stuffed worm comes to mind.

I’m going to keep saying “You know what would be cool?” and working to bring those ideas to life. Because you know what? This project was really cool!

—-

Geek Knits: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Visit the author’s site. Follow her on Twitter. Visit the book’s Facebook page.

Playing With New Themes On the Site Today — Don’t Panic!

If things look weird and disorganized today here on Whatever it’s because I’m looking at new WordPress themes to see if there are any I like. If I find one I like, I may keep it, otherwise things will be back to normal soon enough. Either way, don’t worry, everything’s cool.

Update: I think I’m going to try out this new theme, called “Purpose,” from OrganicThemes. Let’s try it out for a while and see how it goes.

“The Life of the Mind” Excerpt at Tor.com

Starting next Tuesday, June 9, Tor is releasing electronically the four novellas that comprise The End of All Things, once a week through June. The first of these is “The Life of The Mind,” and to get you excited about what’s to come, Tor.com has an excerpt from the story up on the site. Go on, you know you want to peek!

You may also, you know, pre-order “The Life of the Mind” as well as the other three novellas, at your favorite ebook retailer. Prefer to wait for the entire book, which comes out August 11? You may pre-order that too, online or at your favorite local bookseller. Want that book signed? Subterranean Press is taking pre-orders and if you order through them the book will be scribbled upon by me. And yes, there will be an audiobook version as well. We’re all about options, here.

Expect me to be talking more about the novellas (and the novel!) all this month. I’m super excited to share it all with you.

The Big Idea: Martha Wells

Writers sometimes take the long way around to find “home” — the world and characters where they find the most stories to tell. Martha Wells has found her home with the world she’s created in Stories of the Raksura, Volume Two. Here’s how she found it.

MARTHA WELLS:

In many ways, the Raksura books are the books I’ve always wanted to write, it just took me writing a bunch of other books to figure it out.

I always wanted to be a writer, from the time I was a weird, lonely little kid in elementary school haunting the public library and writing and illustrating (in crayon) my Godzilla fanfiction. I’ve always been drawn to fantasy that was outside the marketing box, maybe because my first experience with the genre was weird horror comic books and the pulp paperbacks the library had stuffed into the back corner. I never liked imaginary worlds that had boundaries. I never wanted the characters to know what was on the other side of the mountains or the sea; I wanted to think there was a whole planet out there to explore. (Preferably a planet with multiple moons, maybe rings, and some unlikely microclimates.)

I liked Tolkien, but I loved Andre Norton better, her fantasy and her space opera and the way she combined them, psychic powers that were almost like magic and magic that was almost like technology. I loved the way she would start out with the characters in a strange world and then take them somewhere else even stranger. I wanted to write stories that captured that feeling.

With the Raksura books, I think I finally got there. I’ve tried to create a world that feels limitless, that has room for any amount of stories, where anything could happen. And where I could write about anything, say, matriarchal bisexual shapeshifting flying lizard people, to my heart’s content. It’s a world with a huge variety of strange species, and there’s lots of adventure, exploration, ancient ruins, cultural conflict, assigning blame, fighting, running for their lives, flying for their lives, and trying not to get eaten.

Besides the adventure aspects, the books are also about finding a family, even if it’s a huge, sometimes dysfunctional family, and fighting to keep it together against all odds. (Because the weird lonely little kid I used to be really loved those kinds of stories.) They’re about trying to find a place to call home, learning to trust, and learning to cope with your past, and what happens after you find the thing you’ve always been looking for. It just happens that all this takes place with characters who are, you know, matriarchal bisexual shapeshifting flying lizard people.

Stories of the Raksura vol. II: The Dead City & The Dark Earth Below contains one long novella and one longer novella/short novel. Both expand the world of the Raksura further, and also show it in more detail. The Dead City takes place before the first four Raksura books (The Cloud Roads, The Serpent Sea, The Siren Depths, Stories of the Raksura vol I: The Falling World & The Tale of Indigo and Cloud)  and The Dark Earth Below is set afterward.

Hopefully, readers will find this world almost as much fun to read about as I do to write about it, and I’ll be able to keep expanding it in the future.

—-

Stories of the Raksura vol. II: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow her on Twitter.

Catching Up on ConCarolinas and Final(ish) Notes on The Deal

Behold my latest “award”: A feather duster, provided to me by Wendy Delmater at ConCarolinas, when we were on a panel about awards in science fiction. This is “The Award For Most Awards, 2015,” jokingly given but in fact gratefully received, as the awards do get dusty and dusting them is kind of a pain in the ass. This is one award that has a practical component, which is not a usual thing. It’ll likely stay on or near the shelf with the rest of the awards.

This “award” was just one of the delightful things about ConCarolinas that I got to experience this last weekend as Krissy and I attended. The convention treated us very well, both the folks running the convention and those attending. And both of my panels went swimmingly indeed. The first was a Q&A moderated by John Hartness, which ended up as a combination of John and I cracking each other up, and talking seriously about the business of writing, framed, unsurprisingly, by the deal I just made with Tor. I thought it was pretty much the right combination of fun and informative.

The second panel, I’m not gonna lie, I was worried about: It was “What Good Are Awards Anyway?” and was, quite obviously, about awards in science fiction and fantasy. Clearly, at one point or another it was going to touch on the Hugo situation this year, and that could have gotten annoying, fast. I’m happy to say that in fact the panel turned out to be a truly excellent and wide-ranging discussion, thanks to everyone on the panel (Hartness, moderator Missy Massey, Wendy Delatmer, Edmund Schubert and Gray Rinehart) all deciding that we didn’t want to just dwell on the Hugos, and did want to talk about the larger topic. We did of course discuss the Hugos, but by the time we got to them, in the last few minutes of the panel, enough discussion and context had been laid down that it was just part of the natural flow of the conversation. It ended up being one of the best panels I’ve been on recently, and that was down to my co-panelists, who to a person were professional and personable. I’d share a panel with them any time.

While at the convention, Krissy and I also managed to sneak away in the evenings with friends to experience Charlotte, which is a fine town if you are with the right company who knows where to go, which we were. So convention in the day, Charlotte at night, and all around, simply a wonderful time. We’ll be back. And in the meantime: Thanks, ConCarolinas. It was a blast.

Now I’m back at home, which is nice after a week of being on the road for events at BEA and at the convention, and after a week of watching the world react to the book deal. While I’ve hit most of the points about the deal that I wanted to make in previous entries here and here, I do have a couple of final(ish) observations to make about it, mostly relating to personal things.

The first is — brace yourself for a total lack of sympathy here — announcing a deal this size is actually really stressful. Not because people have been generally snarky or cranky about it; in fact nearly everyone has been lovely. But even good, positive attention can be taxing over a long enough period of time, and the deal happened just before I headed to BEA — the biggest bookseller event of the year — and then to a convention.

It was a whirlwind. People often don’t believe me when I tell them that I’m an introvert, but I am, and this last week because of travel and everything else, I didn’t get a whole lot of downtime to recoup from being around a ton of people. So even in the middle of what was objectively really one of the best weeks of my career, I was stressed out. Happy! Excited! Thrilled! And stressed. Again, I totally get it if people are less than sympathetic to my plight — I’m less than sympathetic, and it happened to me — but there it is. If in the last week you met me and I had a “deer in the headlights” kind of look about me, now you know why.

The second is that the week has reminded me that the vast majority of people really are happy when good things happen to you. I can’t tell you how wonderful folks have been to me in this last week, online and off. It’s also been great to be (relatively) open about the experience of the deal to people — to answer questions about how it happened, what the details are and how it will work moving forward. People generally seem to be less interested in the money porn aspect of it than they are about the mechanics of how this deal will play out over a decade and a baker’s dozen of books.

This pleases me. The deal has a fair amount of money attached to it, but speaking personally, the thing about the deal that is important to me is that the deal requires work. I’m not getting millions to be a showy celebrity loss leader book for my publisher (and if I were, boy, did they make a mistake). This deal is about a career — reflecting both the work it took to get to this particular point, and the work both I and my publisher are planning to do to keep it all going and (hopefully) build from here. The dollar figure draws attention, but it seems that by and large the workaday aspects of the deal are what people eventually come away with. I can’t complain about that. It is a workaday deal. A very nice one, to be sure. But I am going to have to bust my ass for the next decade to earn it. I’m glad people see it.

The third thing is that the commentary has revealed to me both how little so many people understand about how publishing works — which is understandable, because it’s specialized knowledge you don’t need to know unless you’re in publishing — and how some people certainly don’t let their own personal ignorance about how publishing works stop them from trying to convince other people that this deal is somehow not a good one — which is, objectively, kind of stupid and makes them look stupid for suggesting it. Of the second sort, rather than me detailing the stupidity of it, allow me to link to this blog post by Jim Hines, who has already done the requisite work.

I will say that at least some of this nonsense clearly stems from a personal animus various people have against me, either personally (i.e., maybe I was once mean to them online and now they hates the Scalzis forever, precious), or because they identify with some person or group which has hating me as a membership requirement. Their narrative has as a given that I am forever failing or on the verge of doing so, and that when it comes to the business of publishing that I am, at the very least, a naif, whereas they are stuffed with certain knowledge of How Things Work.

As I’ve noted before, there’s nothing to be done about these folks — haters gonna hate, etc — but I’ll admit that I do receive a certain snarkalicious joy out of watching these folks be so wildly wrong about pretty much every single thing they assert about me and my career. A favorite recent moment for me was reading some of these fellows expound, in great detail, how the Bookscan numbers for Lock In proved that particular book was in fact a great failure, that both I and my editor were in a panic about this, how Tor was planning to drop me and how my career was almost certainly doomed — at the same time as I was actively negotiating a seven-figure deal with the aforementioned editor and publisher that would keep me in house through 2026 at least, and would include sequels to Lock In. I couldn’t wait for the news of the deal to come out to see how stupidly wrong they would be about that, too. Suffice to say, they have not disappointed. It must be a blessing to be so ignorant about how ignorant you are.

But, again, these folks are a tiny minority. Most people have been wonderful. To you, the wonderful majority, I say: Thank you, thank you, and thank you again. And now that the news and commentary of the deal is beginning to settle down, what is left to do is the actual hard part: Write the books. I’m looking forward to that more than I can tell you.

Hello, I’m Alive, No Really

Just been having a terrific day here at ConCarolinas and in Charlotte, away from the Internets, is all. Yes, that’s right, I have a life outside this blog! Uh, sometimes.

Seriously, though, ConCarolinas has been an absolutely terrific convention, and they treated me wonderfully. I can’t begin to tell you what a lovely time I’ve had here. Thanks to them for having me and for everyone at the convention for making me and Krissy (who came with me) feel so very welcome.

I’ll be traveling tomorrow to go home so updates here will be in the afternoon if at all. See you then (maybe).