I have many thoughts on the Paris attacks but the one I want to point out today is this: there are 1.2 billion Muslims in the world and what most of them want to do is live their lives, love their family, friends and neighbors, and be at peace with themselves, their world and their God.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacks; one of ISIS’ goals is to spread distrust of Muslims for its own ends, to end the “grayzone,” as it calls it:

Which is to say that every time someone lumps all Muslims into the ISIS camp, the stupid, murderous, rapist, culture-destroying ISIS camp, they’re doing ISIS’ work for them. ISIS is relying on the rest of us to see the world as they do, and as they want us to.

If you believe that every Muslim supports ISIS and groups like it, then you should also believe that all Christians support the Ku Klux Klan and the Westboro Baptist Church and Scott Lively. You should believe that all white people support actions like the Charleston Shooting. You should believe every man celebrates the anniversary of the École Polytechnique Massacre. And so on, across any group or affiliation you might be able to name.

If you don’t believe all of these things, but somehow manage to believe that more than a billion people are somehow sympathetic to, and responsible for the actions of, a cadre of murderous fundamentalists (“fundamentalist” in this case, as in so many cases with that term, not accurately representing the fundamentals of the religion it claims to represent), then the problem is you, not 1.2 billion Muslims. If you demand they answer and apologize for ISIS, I will be more than happy to go down a list of all the things you can be identified as and demand you apologize and answer for the actions of the worst of that segment of society. I suspect you will get tired of this very quickly.

The Muslims I know, and I know more than just a few, are as horrified as anyone by ISIS and what they represent. The Muslims I know are good people, and I am proud if and when they consider me to be their friend. I don’t experience what they feel when events like this happen, which give bigots here, where we live, an excuse to hate and demonize them. But I can see the impact from the outside. It’s stupid what is done to them, and it’s wrong.

So: Don’t. Don’t do what ISIS wants you to do. Don’t be who ISIS wants you to be, and to be to Muslims. Be smarter than they want you to be. All it takes is for you to imagine the average Muslim to be like you, than to be like ISIS. If you can do that, you make a better world, and a more difficult one for groups like ISIS to exist in.

If you can’t do that, consider that perhaps you are more like ISIS than the average Muslim.

New Books and ARCs, 11/13/15

As we head into another weekend, it’s time for another stack of new books and ARCs that have come to the Scalzi Compound. What looks good to you in this collection? Tell me in the comments!

FitBit Update

I think it’s helping? I mean, I’ve had it for three weeks and I’ve lost about three pounds, which is in line with my goal to lose a pound a week, so it’s at least not hurting. And now I know how many steps I take a day, on average (about 6,200), so I guess I have that going for me too. What’s it’s mostly done, though, is make me annoyed when I do a lot of walking and I don’t have the FitBit on me. Oh, great, I think. All that moving around for nothing. I’m not sure that was the intent. And yet.

Anyway: Hi, I’m watching my weight and exercising! Getting older sucks.

On the Sidelines of an Uproar

E-mail the other day which said:

You’ve been quiet on the whole World Fantasy Award uproar. I’m surprised because it seems like your kind of thing.

(For those who need context on the World Fantasy Award uproar, here’s a good basic summation.)

Not sure what to make of this comment. I haven’t been quiet about it, actually; I’ve noted some thoughts on the matter on Twitter of the last several days. Also, I’m not entirely sure what’s meant by this being “my kind of thing.” Is it my kind of thing because I’m occasionally up for genre awards? Or my kind of thing because it’s about social issues? Or both?

I suppose it is true that I’ve been less noisy about it than other folks have, which comes down to a number of reasons, one of them being that I’ve been busy with my own things recently (see this to see what’s been occupying my time the last several days), and another being, well, again, I don’t have to elbow my way to the front of every single controversy on science fiction and fantasy, now, do I? I understand and support the idea that it’s not a great idea to have an unrepentant racist be the literal face of one of the most prestigious awards in the genre, but other people, like Daniel Jose Older, Nnedi Okorafor and Sofia Samatar among others, are rather more invested and have been more cogent in their discussions of it than I am or would have been. I don’t see what utility there would have been in my shoehorning myself into that discussion.

Also, there’s this: I don’t generally write fantasy (my entire fantasy output consists at this point of two novellas and a parody short story). I’ve been to exactly one World Fantasy Convention, and that because it was a convenient place for SFWA to hold a business meeting when the Worldcon was that year on another continent. I’ve never been nominated for a World Fantasy Award, nor do I find such a thing likely.

As for the award itself, I actually like the bust visually, but that’s almost solely because I’m a fan of the artist Gahan Wilson, and of his style. The bust is a grotesque, as a noun, and grotesque, as an adjective. My admiration for the artist’s work does not distract from my opinion that HP Lovecraft was always a curious selection for the award. While his work is obviously fantastical, it’s so much more typically horror in my mind that having him as an icon of fantasy as a whole never made much sense to me (by this same argument, I’m not 100% convinced having Lovecraft replaced by Octavia Butler, as has been suggested, makes sense, either, as she is in my mind strongly associated with science fiction rather than fantasy). With that said, I’ve never had any particular strong feeling for or against the statue, probably because it never especially applied to me as someone who doesn’t actively participate in the fantasy side of the genre. I was neutral on it until others pointed out problems with Lovecraft, unrepentant racist, as an icon for the field.

So, again: While I don’t think I’ve been silent about my support for the folks making the argument about changing the award statue, I’m not sure why I should have needed to try to insert myself into the front ranks of this particular argument, either. I’m happy to have been in the crowd for this one, lending support rather than leading the charge.

The aftermath noise from certain quarters to the change has been, well, predictable, hasn’t it, with the telltale furious ejaculations of “political correctness!” and “social justice warriors!” marking the words of people who can’t or won’t employ actual thought to the matter. I’m always embarrassed for the people who use these phrases thinking they’re cutting, when in fact what they signal to the rest of the world is that the utterer is dog-whistling to a low-wattage, bigoted rabble in lieu of making an actual argument.

It’s nonsense in any event. There is no real danger of Lovecraft being removed from the fantasy/horror canon, although maybe now there will be more discussion of how his personal bigotry shaped his tales. Along this line, nor are the arguments of Lovecraft being “of his time” particularly persuasive when it’s obvious and evident that even in his time, he was noxiously bigoted, and in any event, it’s not his time anymore. One of the privileges of being of our time (whichever time that is) is to decide who and what should represent a genre, and in this case a genre that is increasingly diverse and full of people that it seems likely Lovecraft himself would have been horrified to see clutching his likeness as a prize.

Which is to say that I expect of all the people who would vote to have Lovecraft’s likeness removed from the World Fantasy Award, he himself would be among the first. For his own bigoted reasons, mind you. But the end result would be the same.

What Ten Years Looks Like

Tor Books and I agreed to our deal in May, but for various reasons (including the fact that the deal was for thirteen books, to be delivered over the course of ten years), the actual, finalized contracts didn’t get to me until this very morning. Here they are, laid out. You’re looking at ten years of my life, here — or at least the literary aspect of it, through 2026. I will be 57 years old when the last of these books is released into the world. Honestly, that just seems unfathomable at the moment.

I have a lot of deep thoughts about all of this, but I’m going to wait a bit until these contracts — which I signed! — are countersigned over at Tor. Until then, look: A decade, in contract form.

Size Matters Not

Larry Correia has just come back from a book tour, and it appears he generally had a good time and had good crowds along the way, which is nice. Near the end of the post he wrote about the tour he notes that after his Portland stop, some Twitter commenter gave him stick about the size of his crowd (which eventually topped up at over 40 fans) and how real successful authors pull larger crowds, and so on. Larry responded as Larry does, and that’s fine for Larry, but as a general topic of interest, let me add a few additional cents.

First, an anecdote. Back in 2006, I was at the Worldcon in Anaheim and I gave a reading, and I pulled in, oh, about, 40 people to the room. A little earlier than that, I walked past a room where George RR Martin was doing a reading, and that room had maybe ten people in it, listening to George read. From these numbers, can we assume that in 2006, I was four times as popular as George?

Answer: No, don’t be stupid. The reason I had more people than George at my reading is that at the 2006 Worldcon, the rooms where the authors were holding their readings were really difficult to find — in a hotel, on a somewhat inaccessible floor, away from the main convention — and if you didn’t tell people how to get to the rooms, they may not have found them. I had a signing just before my reading and I told every single person in my signing line how to find my reading. That’s why I had as many people as I did at my reading. I don’t assume George did the same thing, so I suspect that’s why he had fewer (seriously, those rooms were hard to find. If I hadn’t have scouted the room before my reading, I’m not sure I would have found my way to my own reading).

Moral to this anecdote: It’s not a good idea to make assumptions of a writer’s popularity from a sample size of a single reading.

Indeed, speaking from some experience, it’s also not a great idea to make assumptions of a writer’s popularity — as it is expressed by overall number of books sold — by how many people show up, on average, for their book events, no matter how many of them you string together. Why? Well, because it all depends on the writer, and the book. Some writers are good at book events and pull in a crowd disproportionately large to number of books they sell in general; some aren’t and do the opposite. Sometimes the book subject doesn’t lend itself to people showing up in a bookstore. Sometimes most of the readers of a book might be in a demographic that doesn’t correlate to going out to events.

In terms of single events, sometimes your event is counterscheduled against something huge going on in town. Sometimes it’s scheduled in the middle of weather that is likely to kill people if they go out in it. Sometimes the bookstore, who is supposed to promote the event, did a bad job of it (although in my experience this is rare; bookstores are usually on it). Sometimes it’s at an odd time of day where people can’t get away to a event. Sometimes you do everything right, and people just don’t show up anyway. There are lots of reasons why people don’t go to book events, in other words, even if the books sell just fine. These reasons often have nothing to do with the author themselves.

I’ve been actively touring novels since 2007, when Tor put me on tour for The Last Colony. Since that time, across several tours, I’d say my largest tour event had several hundred people at it, and my smallest event had… three. Yes, three. I was at the time a New York Times best selling, award-winning author, and yet three people showed up to a tour event of mine. And they were lovely people! And we had a fine time of it, the three of them and I. But still: Three.

Because sometimes that happens. And it happens to every writer. Ask nearly any writer who has done an event, and they will tell you a tale of at least one of their events populated by crickets and nothing else. Yes, even the best sellers. And here’s the thing about that: Even with the best sellers, it’s an event often in the not-too-recent past. Every time you do an event, you roll the dice. Sometimes you win and get a lot of people showing up. Sometimes you lose and you spend an awkward hour talking to the embarrassed bookstore staff. Either way, you deal with it, and then it’s off to the next one.

Also, tangentially: the dude on Twitter trying to plink one off of Larry because of the size of his event crowd? Kind of a dick. For all the reasons noted above, but also because the size of the audience has nothing to do with the quality of the event. Larry and I have our various differences, but I’ve seen enough of him up close to know the dude has a work ethic and that he values his fans. If he had seven or eight or forty or however many people in attendance, I’m pretty sure he did his best to make them feel like they made the right choice by showing up. I have no doubt they had a good time.

And then those seven or eight or forty or however many people will go home feeling valued by Larry, and they’ll keep buying his books and keep recommending them to friends and others. Because that’s the point and that’s how it’s done. The value of doing a book event is not only about who is in the crowd that day. It’s the knock-on effect from there — building relationships with fans and booksellers, and benefiting when they talk you up to friends and customers and so on. I know it, publishers know it, booksellers know it. I’d be very surprised if Larry doesn’t know it. We all know it.

Which is why I’m fairly certain that however many people showed up to Larry’s event, he entertained them and they had a ball. Just like I do my best to give people who show up to my events a good time, no matter the number. Just like pretty much any writer does.

That’s what makes a successful author event: What the author puts into it and what people who showed up came away with. Not the gross number of people who show up.

Self Promotion, on “Dear Veronica”

My pal Veronica Belmont offers advice on technology and the geek life over at Engadget, and this week she enlisted me to help out with a question about promoting yourself and your new novel online. Want to know what I said? Of course you do. The link is here (I would embed it but embedding doesn’t appear to work. Make the click anyway, it’s worth it).

The Big Idea: William Shunn

Author William Shunn has had something happen to him which it seems unlikely has ever happened to you, and that event is the cornerstone of his memoir, The Accidental Terrorist. But as Shunn learned, telling the story of that event was not merely a matter of reciting the facts.


I was arrested in 1987, when I was a nineteen-year-old Mormon missionary.

For terrorism.

In Canada, of all places.

But even before that happened, I had the big idea to write about what it’s really like to be a missionary.

We probably all picture Mormon missionaries as an army of interchangeable young men in white shirts and ties, trudging endlessly from one porch to the next with a message and a holy book. Even growing up Mormon, this was pretty much how I envisioned mission life. It wasn’t until I turned nineteen and was pressed into service myself that I discovered a more colorful reality.

The missionaries I met were anything but homogeneous, and frequently anything but holy. Some were diligent and some were slackers. Some were pious, sure, but more were profane. There was gossip and brownnosing and backstabbing galore. A few of my colleagues seemed to be set on breaking every rule in our little white handbook, not mention a Commandment or two.

I was something of a sheltered kid up to this point, but I was also a budding science fiction writer. I’d attended the Clarion Workshop at Michigan State University only a year earlier. My reaction to the absurd truth of mission life was, inevitably, an intense desire to write about it.

What’s more, I wanted to write about it not in some roundabout, science-fictional way but as a straight first-person memoir. The missionary world would be alien enough to most readers to be interesting all on its own. Taking mental notes for my tell-all book was one of the ways I kept myself sane.

As I said, this was my big idea even before the ill-considered incident that landed me in jail. After I was free again, with a better story than I’d ever imagined, I was all the more eager to get my book underway. But as a faithful young Mormon, every time I tried to start it my worries about church discipline got in the way. After all, the memoir I envisioned wouldn’t exactly be a faith-promoting exercise.

It wasn’t until I was no longer so young and no longer so Mormon that I was finally able to get moving on a first draft of The Accidental Terrorist. The year was 1999. I set myself some ground rules. First, I couldn’t make anything up. Second, I couldn’t go out of my way to make myself look good. Third, I couldn’t poke fun at my younger self, no matter how stupidly I might think I’d behaved as a kid.

As a further challenge, I had to weave enough Mormon history and doctrine into the story that my criminal act would make sense, and not come across as the bad punchline to a worse joke. That’s what led directly to my next big idea—to braid my narrative together with the life story of Joseph Smith, Mormonism’s larger-than-life founding prophet.

It’s tough to explain Mormonism without explaining Joseph Smith. It took a huge infusion of bravado to think I could even try, or that I could put our stories side-by-side without his overwhelming mine. It took even more chutzpah to draw parallels between our two lives, and to think that my experiences could illuminate his as much as his illuminated mine.

That was hard to pull off, but one thing was even harder—writing about myself with sufficient insight and compassion. Despite my best efforts, my earliest drafts dripped with condescension. I managed to write that out in later drafts, but my younger self was still often the butt of the joke. Real understanding continued to elude me.

It took sixteen years and the right editor to get me over that final hump. (A lot of therapy, too—any writer’s best friend.) My editor asked me all the tough, probing questions about emotions and motivations and expectations that I wasn’t sure how to ask myself. This was the spool of thread she armed me with before shoving me into the labyrinth to bring back some warm, bleeding answers.

Two drafts and six months later, we were both satisfied with the result. I’m glad I finally found the words to portray young Elder Shunn in an empathetic light because I owe that kid a lot. Beyond the obvious, he left me one foresightful gift which I only discovered as time was running out to choose a photograph for the book cover.

I stumbled across it while sifting through a box of mission mementos—a photograph of me in a white shirt, tie, and black missionary name tag. I’m posed at the edge of a burning wheat field, deep in thought. I hold a sheaf of tinder in my hand, as if I’ve just set the fire myself.

I’d forgotten this photo existed, but it was the perfect metaphor for my story. Looking at it, I got the eerie feeling that my younger self had been thinking ahead to this very moment and had sent me exactly what I needed.

Like I said, I owe that kid a lot. I owe that kid this book.


The Accidental Terrorist: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|iBooks|Kobo

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

TEoAT is a Goodreads Choice Awards Semifinalist + Thoughts on Awards in General

First: Hey, The End of All Things made it to the semifinalist round of this years Goodreads Choice Awards in the science fiction category. You can see a picture of the other semi-finalists above, which include a few write-ins from the previous round, which is all to the good. If you’re a Goodreads member, you can vote for the book you like in this category and several others as well. Here’s a direct link to the science fiction category; you can click through to the other categories from there.

Second: Someone asked me if being nominated for things like this made me feel competitive against the other authors in my category, not in the least because the Goodreads people are more than happy to try to get you as an author to engage your readers to vote for you through the various rounds.

In this specific case, the short answer is no, because a) the Goodreads Choice Award is not an award that means a huge amount to me — it’d be nice to win, sure, but any time I’ve been nominated I’ve thought about the award for exactly zero seconds after someone else’s book beat mine, and b) there are a lot of authors in the category I like as people and/or books I’ve enjoyed, and it’s genuinely difficult for me to feel competitive against them. I’d be delighted for almost all of these books/authors to win, excepting only the books I’ve not read by authors I don’t know, and I’d be perfectly happy for them to win, too, because why not? There’s also c) which is: Why be the asshole who has to feel competitive all the time, or feel that you’re owed an award? That’s kind of exhausting, and annoying to others. I’d prefer not to.

In a larger sense: You know, I’ve won my fair share of awards and have also lost rather more than I’ve won. In all cases my experience has been that it’s nice to win but it also doesn’t usually hurt to lose. The worst-case scenario to losing an award is that you are no worse off than you were before, unless you’ve made winning that particular award a cornerstone of your being for some reason or another, which is on you rather than anyone else. You might believe if you win an award, then it will move the needle in how you are perceived or are respected, and you know what? It just might. Then again it might not. Or it might for a limited time, after which you’re in the mix again just like everybody else. Or after you win it you might start acting like a twit, or might start worrying that you always have to top the thing that won the award. In which case the winning the award will become a net negative over time.

I’ve won and lost enough awards to know an award is not The Thing That Changes Everything. An award is fun, an award is nice, an award may even be, at times, significant. But at the end of the day, whether you win or lose, you still go home with yourself, and you don’t change — at least, not because of an award. It’s perfectly fine to want an award (I’ve wanted them from time to time, you can be assured) and it’s perfectly okay to be disappointed if you don’t get one. But ultimately, putting the responsibility for your happiness onto an award, which is, generally speaking, a thing over which you have absolutely no control, is a very fine way to become unhappy. Which will not be on the award, or any of the people who voted for it. It will be on you, whether you want to own that fact or not.

What I suggest is this: Hey, you’ve been nominated for an award? Cool! You’ve made the semi-finalist round? Neat! Made the finalist round? Awesome! You win the award? Whoo-hoo! You lose the award or didn’t get nominated this time around? Oh, well, your life is still probably pretty decent, all things considered. Maybe next time! And so on.

In the meantime, be happy for the success you have and also for the successes others have, which in point of fact do not diminish the opportunities and success you may find. Envy and jealousy and a zero-sum approach to awards is no way to go through life, my friends.

Kitten Update, 11/10/15

The kittens are on this side of the stairs because they both climbed over the gate, evidence that the gate is not so much useful as a gate anymore, even if it has some continued utility as exercise equipment. That, combined with the fact that the last flea combing produced no fleas (aided by a spraying with age-appropriate flea treatment, which will be administered again probably tomorrow), means that I’m officially letting the gate come down and the kittens to roam around the house. They’ve already gotten acclimated to Daisy, who loves them to bits, and it’s time they had a little more contact with Zeus, who so far is less than pleased but need to deal with it. So out into the world (defined as “the house”) they go.

I do find the kittens already surprise me. When we got them, lo that whole week ago, I assumed that Thing Two, who is the larger and in many ways more forward of the kittens, would be the troublemaker of the pair, but it turns out that Thing One is the adventurous one — she’s the one who hopped the gate first, who acclimated to Daisy first, and who goes down the stairs at every available opportunity. Thing Two, on the other hand, is a little more cautious (but only a little) and is more openly affectionate, coming over to me meowing to be picked up and petted and so on. It’s nice they are already challenging assumptions and expectations.

This is likely the last regularly-scheduled kitten update here. Before anyone complains, if you think this means there won’t be additional kitten pictures here, quite obviously you’ve never actually visited this site before. There will be tons, I assure you. Just not every single day.

Er, probably.


The Big Idea: James Renner

I’ve forgotten what I was going to say to introduce James Renner’s new novel. As the novel is called The Great Forgetting, perhaps this is appropriate. And did I really forget… or was I made to forget?


When I was a kid my father would take me camping at state parks around Ohio. Salt Fork. Pymatuning. Mohican. If you’ve never been, these parks all pretty much look the same: stark, concrete buildings for bathing and gutting fish in the middle of old-growth forests. I asked my dad, once, when the parks were built and he said after the war, meaning World War II.

But the parks looked older to me. I imagined they were hundreds, thousands of years old and that we had only forgotten when they were really constructed.

In college, I learned of a theory called “Phantom Time.”

The idea behind Phantom Time is that, at various moments in history, our great leaders rejiggered the calendar for their personal agendas. Some scholars believe Pope Sylvester II skipped over a hundred years in the official calendar just so that he could be Pope in 1000 A.D. A German historian, Heribert Illig, is convinced much of the Middle Ages never happened at all, specifically the years 614  – 911.

How crazy is that?

We assume the year is 2015. But if we skipped over hundreds of years because someone altered the official calendar, perhaps it’s only 1772. How about this – what if they didn’t always just skip ahead? What if some ruler in the distant past simply deleted historical record? An unaccounted for span of time. Perhaps it’s not 1772. Perhaps it’s really 2115.

It’s enough to make you paranoid, isn’t it?

That idea was the seed for my new novel, The Great Forgetting. In the book, I imagined a world in which the United States turned its back on Europe in World War II. The war was much bigger than what we were told, and raged on until 1964, when we finally defeated the Werhmacht as they pushed into New England. Billions died.

As America began to rebuild, a scientist came forward with an idea: we could forget that we let the Nazis win, if we really wanted to. A new history could be written. And we could reset the calendar. He had this idea for a giant machine that could rewrite our minds to accept a new, shared history in which we were heroes. That initiative was known as The Great Forgetting. We scrubbed 100 years of history from our records.

Eventually, a history teacher from Ohio uncovers the conspiracy. And he is faced with a choice: is it better to forget our mistakes or learn from them so that they’re never repeated?

It’s a heady idea. And maybe not so far fetched.

After all, who wouldn’t want to forget their worst mistake? And how powerful is that urge when it’s an entire country?

The Great Forgetting is available everywhere books are sold, November 10, 2015. Or is that 2115?


The Great Forgetting: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Visit the author’s site. Follow him on Twitter.

How to Get Signed and Personalized Scalzi Books for the Holidays, 2015

It’s that time of the year again, and once again I am teaming up with Jay & Mary’s Book Center, my local independent bookseller, to offer signed and personalized books for gift-giving. It’s a great way to get a unique gift for someone you love (even yourself!) while at the same time supporting a great local business that does a fantastic job in its community (and also currently employs my kid, how cool is that).

So: How do you get signed and personalized books from me this year? It’s simple:

1. Call Jay & Mary’s at their 800 number (800 842 1604) and let them know you’d like to order signed copies of my books. Please call rather than send e-mail; they find it easier to keep track of things that way.

2. Tell them which books you would like (For example, The End of All Things), and what, if any, names you would like the book signed to. If there’s something specific you’d like written in the books let them know but for their sake and mine, please keep it short. Also, if you’re ordering the book as a gift, make sure you’re clear about whose name the book is being signed to. If this is unclear, I will avoid using a specific name.

3. Order any other books you might think you’d like, written by other people, because hey, you’ve already called a bookstore for books, and helping local independent bookstores is a good thing. I won’t sign these, unless for some perverse reason you want me to, in which case, sure, why not.

4. Give them your mailing address and billing information, etc.

5. And that’s it! Shortly thereafter I will go to the store and sign your books for you.

If you want the books shipped for Christmas, the deadline for that is December 10. (That’s a Thursday this year.) That way we can make sure everything ships to you on time. Hey, that’s a month; more than enough time for you to make your selections. After December 10, all Scalzi stock will still be signed and available, but I will likely not be able to personalize, and we can’t 100% guarantee Christmastime delivery.

Ordering early is encouraged — it makes sure we will absolutely be able to order your book and have it to you on time.

Also, this is open to US residents only. Sorry, rest of the world. It’s a cost of shipping thing.

What books are available?

CURRENT HARDCOVER: The End of All ThingsThe Mallet of Loving Correction (The latter is already signed but I will be happy to personalize it). They may also be able to locate hardcover copies of Lock In — go ahead and ask.

CURRENT TRADE PAPERBACK: Redshirts (the 2013 Hugo Award winner!), Twenty-First Century Science Fiction (which features a story of mine), Metatropolis (which I edited and contribute a novella to). There may be hardcovers of these still around if you ask. But each are definitely in trade paperback.

CURRENT MASS MARKET PAPERBACK: Lock InThe Human DivisionFuzzy Nation, Old Man’s War, The Ghost Brigades, The Last Colony, Zoe’s Tale, The Android’s Dream, Agent to the Stars, The New Space Opera 2.

CURRENT NON-FICTION: Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded (essay collection, Hugo winner), Book of the Dumb, Book of the Dumb 2 (both humor books) are all still in print.

AUDIOBOOKS: The End of All Things, Lock InThe Human Division, Redshirts, Fuzzy Nation, The God Engines, Metatropolis and Agent to the Stars are all available on CD and/or MP3 CD, and Jay & Mary’s should be able to special order them for you.

Two things regarding audiobooks: First, if you want these, you should probably call to order these ASAP. Second, and this is important, because the audiobooks come shrinkwrapped, I will have to remove the shrinkwrap in order to sign the cover. You ordering a signed audiobook means you’re okay with me doing that and with Jay & Mary’s shipping it to you out of its shrinkwrap.

If you have any other questions, drop them in the comment thread and I’ll try to answer them!

For Those of You Asking About Zeus

One, he’s perfectly fine, merely not at the center of my public discussion of cats in the last week as he neither a) a kitten, b) a newly-passed on senior cat. You should be aware that Zeus has been perfectly fine not being the center of media attention in the last several days, as he is a cat and has not the slightest idea either that I write about my cats here, or that any of you have any idea who he is. But he is alive and well and doing what he does.

Two, he seems to be aware that that Lopsided Cat is gone. He saw his friend in his last few days and appeared to grok that not was well; he did not see Lopsided Cat after we brought him back from the vet and before we buried him (he was out of the house at the time), but seems to note the absence, in the way pets do (Daisy saw Lopsided Cat as we buried him and at least appeared to have some idea of what was going on). He seems to be carrying on all right. Zeus and Lopsided Cat were close, but Zeus and Daisy are closer, and I suspect Zeus will miss Daisy most when she’s gone.

Three, Zeus is aware of the kittens and as a somewhat territorial male cat (“somewhat” because he’s been snipped) is less than thoroughly pleased at the turn of events, first because the kittens are mostly sequestered to my office right now, i.e., his space — he likes to nap on my chair — and second because pets are rarely thrilled with change anyway. Every time Zeus sees the kittens, his response is basically to give a look that says “the fuck are those,” and then stalk off. Now, as it happens, Lopsided Cat and Ghlaghghee had exactly the same reaction to him when he arrived, nearly eight years ago now. So in the long run I suspect things will be fine.

It’s mildly weird to think of Zeus as the senior cat now, as I remember his arrival and his subsequent rather extended adolescent phase; it’s really only in the last couple of years that it’s sunk in that he’s a fully adult cat. But he’s eight years old now, which are prime adult years for a cat. We weren’t expecting him to be the senior cat at the Scalzi Compound, but now he is — senior pet, in fact, as his tenure with us outdates Daisy’s by a couple of years. I think he’ll do well in the role.

The Big Idea: Lisa Goldstein

The writing was on the wall for Lisa Goldstein, whose chance encounter with a single scrawl led to the story behind her latest novel, Weighing Shadows. Let us take you back in time to that moment.


Practically the entire plot of Weighing Shadows came to me while I was sitting in my car in a parking lot. Someone had painted the word KORE on one wall of the lot, and I wondered, idly: What did that mean? Who had written it, and why? Kore is another name for Persephone, isn’t it? And then, because I write fiction and can’t help coming up with weird explanations for things: What if it was a sign intended for a secret society of goddess worshippers? What if those worshippers still existed, and had existed for thousands of years? What did they want, and why did they feel the need to hide themselves and communicate in code words?

I’d been thinking about writing a time-travel novel and how much fun I could have with it, and suddenly these two ideas converged. Now there was a time-traveling corporation from the future that tried to subtly nudge the course of history by changing one or two small things at a time, a corporation that had started by being idealistic and high-minded but that now supported the status quo as a way to hold onto power. And there was another group, this one clandestine, much less powerful and without access to time travel, that was trying to stop them. And the first break between the two happened in ancient Crete, where the corporation supported the patriarchal Greeks against the goddess-worshipping Cretans.

(Yeah, it’s a feminist book. Just go with it.)

Plot-lines grew like ivy, branched out, proliferated. Where else could I take my protagonists that dealt with these two world views, that of a power structure imposed from above versus one that grew organically? I’d always wanted to learn more about the Library of Alexandria — and wait, wasn’t there a famous woman mathematician who’d taught there? (There was indeed — Hypatia.) And what about troubadours, I’d always liked them… I could show some of the complexities of history, the stuff that didn’t fit into the sanitized version I’d been taught. And of course the more I researched those eras the more complex I found them.

The thing is, I didn’t want to write a novel. I’d just finished a book, The Uncertain Places, that had been extremely difficult to write, with lots of stops and false starts and dead ends. I wanted to write short stories, not because they’re easier — they aren’t — but because if they don’t work out it’s less painful to walk away from them. And yet this idea just wouldn’t leave me alone.

Anyone who’s ever written anything knows what happened next. I kept reading history books, telling myself that I was only doing research and not writing anything yet. A main character showed up, Ann, a woman who was happy to get out of her boring job and go work for the corporation but who started to question their purposes. Ann needed to be able to get into the company’s computer files, so I made her a hacker. She needed to blend in, to avoid suspicion, so I made her an orphan, someone who grew up in foster homes and learned not to make waves. (I also wanted her birth to be mysterious, so that while the corporation was checking out some of the origins of civilization she would be checking out her own origins as well.)

Before I knew it I’d started writing the thing. Well, it pretty much wrote itself actually — because I’d done so much research and thought about it for so long, and because it had arrived in almost one piece, it went faster than any book I’d ever written. It was a gift, really, something to be accepted gratefully. If only they were all that obliging.


Weighing Shadows: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Visit the author’s site.

Lopsided Cat Followup

A quick note of thanks to everyone who passed along their condolences with regard to Lopsided Cat yesterday; they were and are appreciated. It is sort of remarkable to me how much grief can well up when a pet dies, until one remembers that they are in fact people, who just happen not to be human. I don’t think of my pets as my children (at least, not once they are done being kittens or puppies), but they are family members, and it’s right to mourn their passing and miss them when they go. Your good thoughts and words in that respect helped.

For those of you wondering where he’ll spend his eternity, it’s here:

That’s the maple tree in the backyard, under which Ghlaghghee is also buried. Lopsided Cat and Ghlaghghee arrived here within a couple months of each other and we long suspected they might have been related (Lopsided Cat had markings very similar to Ghlaghghee’s mother, who lived next door. They would have been separate litters), so it seemed appropriate that they would be next to each other there. As we did with Ghlaghghee, the site is currently marked by a cairn of wood logs (which also solves the practical purpose of making it difficult for local dogs/coyotes/etc to dig up remains); we’ll replace those with a marker probably in the spring. It’s a nice place to have a rest, eternal or otherwise, and it will be good to have him here with us.

People have made the observation that it must help to have two new kittens in the house, or that possibly the timing of their arrival was something more than coincidental. My feeling about it is that it really was coincidental, but coincidence or not, having them here indeed makes the passing slightly easier to deal with. We lost two cats this year; we have two new cats to keep us company, and both of the kittens are exhibiting their own personalities and quirks already. Thing One and Thing Two (again, temporary names, although if Athena waits too much longer with the new names it may be too late) aren’t replacements for Ghlaghghee and Lopsided Cat, in the sense of it would be foolish to expect them to be like or have personalities like those two. It is fun to see them become who they are. I’m glad and grateful they are here.

In its way the last week is a bit of a microcosm of life, with pets as the players: People come into your life, people go out of it. You miss the ones that go, and remember them. You welcome the ones that come in, and try to make their stay in it worth the memory. Life goes on, and it is good. You get to be part of it, too.

And there it is.

No, I Don’t Have a Second Gig as a Set Dresser

A couple of people on Twitter alerted me to this name in the credits of Aziz Ansari’s new Netflix series, Master of None:

They also wondered (I assume, jokingly) whether I had gotten myself a new side gig.

So, for the avoidance of doubt: No, that John Scalzi is not me, nor is he, as far as I know, any relation of mine. There are other John Scalzis in the world, after all, including a meteorologist in Florida and a former boxer in Pennsylvania, and this fine fellow (and there’s, uh, also, my dad). Set dresser John Scalzi is, I assume, a new one (well, a new one to my radar) and worked as a set dresser on a couple of feature films before Master of None.

(Update: In fact, I do know this John Scalzi! He the one in the “fine fellow” link above. His wife Nancy fills in the details in the comments.)

In any event: Congrats, John Scalzi, who is not me, for the fine new gig. It’s always nice to see the John Scalzis of the world doing well.

Lopsided Cat, 2000 – 2015

This is the first picture I ever took of Lopsided Cat, back in April of 2003. He came to us in an interesting way: Krissy and Athena were working in the garden (well, Krissy was working, Athena, age four, was “helping”), and Lopsided Cat emerged out of the trees at the property line and made a beeline to Athena. When Athena bent down to pet this friendly, strange cat, he hopped onto her back. And just like that, he was home.

Well, part-time at first. I suspect Lopsided Cat, who appeared well-fed and who was neutered, was someone else’s cat too, possibly one of our neighbors to the east. Alternately, as happened with Zeus, someone abandoned him, and Lopsided Cat, an able hunter, had been taking care of himself until he found himself an easier situation. But at some point he decided he liked us and made us his permanent base of operations. We were fine with that because he was friendly and affectionate, unlike our then-current cat Rex, who liked me but was a jerk with everyone else.

Lopsided Cat’s name came from the fact that he usually had his head at a tilt, which was visually endearing but was rooted in an actual malady — when he came to us he had a rather substantial infestation of ear mites (this alone suggests he might have been abandoned), and this apparently caused him to tilt his head a lot. We got the ear mites cleaned out and otherwise got him shots and so on, but he never stopped tilting his head. When he was a part-time resident, I called him “that lopsided cat.” When he came on-staff full time, the name stuck. It suited him.

Lopsided Cat came to live with us, but he was and remained through his life a mostly outdoor cat. He would come in to eat and sleep and have occasional pettings, but when he was done with all that he let you know that he was ready to outside with a meow loud and insistent enough to cut through concrete. I’ve read that cats meow in a vocal range similar to that of human infants, because that’s what makes adult humans get up and make the problem stop. I’m willing to believe it because I would be dead asleep, and Lopsided Cat would meow on the porch on the other side of the front door, down a flight of stairs, and I would be awake instantly and up out of bed before I had time to think about it. I suspect he was pretty proud at how well he trained his human.

He earned his keep and then some. I’ve noted before that our cats are not just pets but are working animals — we have agricultural fields on three sides of us and the creatures that live in the fields like to migrate into the house, particularly when the weather starts getting cooler. The cats kept that from happening, Lopsided Cat most of all. He was an avid hunter, and at times would do it with… well, style might be the word for it. One morning I went into the garage and found two dead rabbits, symmetrically arranged facing each other, paws up as if praying for their lives, on the mat by the door, and Lopsided Cat sitting there, looking up at me. My immediate thought was holy shit, it’s a gangland killing.

For all that, he was not a standoffish cat. He liked to be petted — although not in front of the other cats, which is a thing I found very amusing — and he was never skittish with the other animals, including the dogs, both of which during his tenure, Kodi and Daisy, outweighed and outsized him by a significant factor. He was cordial if not overly friendly with both. His closest animal relationship was with Zeus, whom he initially disliked but eventually took to engaging in mutual grooming behavior with. This made me joke that he and Zeus were gay, which, I should note, was perfectly fine with me if they were.

Of all the cats we’ve had, Lopsided Cat struck me as the most Platonically ideal. Ghlaghghee was a princess, Zeus was a hyper bundle, Rex was a curmudgeon, but Lopsided Cat was a cat: He ate and slept and hunted and accepted tribute from humans in the form of petting and that’s what he was. Of all the cats I’ve had, I expect he was the least smart; he never did anything that made me think wow, that was actually pretty clever, which every other cat I’ve ever had has done at least once. But then he never had to. This was a creature who was perfectly and utterly at peace with who he was: A cat. You could not ask for a better one.

The other evening — on the same day as we picked out our new kittens, currently named Thing One and Thing Two — Krissy found Lopsided Cat in the garage, looking rather disheveled and dazed. He had slobber on him, which suggested he’d been in a fight with a local dog, but didn’t have any bite or claw marks on him, which suggested that the fight had been lopsided in favor of the cat. Nevertheless we took him to the vet to see if there were any broken bones (there weren’t) or anything dislocated (again, no). The vet kept him overnight, then gave him painkillers and let me take him home, and I thought that would be the end of it.

It wasn’t. Lopsided Cat, always a very active animal, didn’t want to move and didn’t want to eat or drink. We waited to see if he would get better and when he didn’t I took him back to the vet for some more x-rays and other tests. Our vet, this time looking for things other than broken or dislocated bones, discovered that our cat had suffered a hernia, probably from the fight. That explained why he didn’t want to move or eat. She also discovered that Lopsided Cat was suffering from kidney failure — and that was something that was independent of the fight, likely brought about from the fact that Lopsided Cat, who was at least a couple of years old when he joined up with us, was simply just now old.

So here was the thing: Our vet could operate on the hernia, but Lopsided Cat’s recovery was not assured to be smooth because of his age, and the fact of the matter was that no matter what, the state of his kidneys meant that the time he had left with us was short. The cat we knew and loved was active and spent most of his time outdoors. The cat we would have left to us would be invalid and failing. We had to ask ourselves whether Lopsided Cat would be happy not being the cat he had always been.

Each of us, Athena and Krissy and I, knew the answer to that. So yesterday all of us went to the vet’s office to say goodbye to him. Then, when that was done, we brought him home to bury him.

Which, I have to be honest, I never thought we would be able to do. Lopsided Cat came to us out of the trees, unexpected. He was an outdoor cat, and one that was never shy of a hunt or of a fight. For those reasons, I fully expected that one day he would simply go out on his daily rounds… and that would be that. We would wait, and wait, and wonder and be concerned and then after a month or two we would have to accept that the cat who came out of trees had gone back into them, forever, and that we would never get to give him our farewells and let him know he loved him.

But he didn’t do that. In the end, he went out on his daily rounds… and then he came back. Because in the end he knew where his home was. It was with us. He came back to us, and we got to give him our farewells and let him know we loved him. And then we got to bring him home one last time, to be with us forever.

I’m so glad he came home.

New Books and ARCs, 11/6/15

With extra added kitten!

Which titles look intriguing to you? Let me know in the comments.

(Kitten not included.)

Kitten Update, 11/6/15

Don’t pretend like you don’t want this. 

Thing One, enjoying some books.

Thing Two, practicing an “I’m totally innocent!” look.

Daisy and Thing One. Check out the size differential there. Yes, clearly, they have met. In fact:

Yup. They’re going to get along just fine.

The Big Idea: Emma Newman

Is there space within a genre of big ideas for a little thing called “characters”? Emma Newman sought to find out in her novel Planetfall. Here she is with a report on what she discovered.


Science-fiction is a genre of big ideas. When I think back to the science-fiction I have read and loved, it’s invariably the big idea that stays with me, rather than the characters (with the exception of The Sparrow). It has been my favourite genre since I was about 8 years old and discovered Trillions by Nicholas Fisk in a Cornish library, but when I became a writer, I didn’t write in the genre. In fact, my first proper publishing deal was for an urban fantasy series.

Looking back, I realise now that I was intimidated. Not only because the genre means so much to me, but also because somewhere along the way, I became convinced that there was no place for me. Not just because I’m a woman (that’s a whole other blog post altogether!), but because I’m an author who writes about characters first and foremost. I feared I would never come up with a science-fiction idea big enough, original enough or exciting enough to carve my place on that genre bookshelf.

Then I had an idea that wouldn’t let me go involving a character concept that I simply had to explore. For the first time – after writing six other novels – the protagonist arrived in my mind before anything else.

There was a big idea at the core of that character, but it’s not one I can talk about in any detail without spoiling the entire book, so I’m going to keep the details vague. Suffice it to say she has a mental illness and I wanted to explore her experience of it.

At this point, there was no setting, nor any plot, just the certain knowledge that I had to explore this character and her mental health. I researched the disorder she suffers from, consuming case study after case study – whilst my urban fantasy novels were being written and then sold and then published – and then I came across an article about an idea for building a moon base using 3-D printers and moon dust.

It was like a piñata had been struck and exploded in my brain. I suddenly knew that this character, who had been lurking all that time, lived on a distant colony built using 3-D printing technology and she was the engineer who maintained all the printers. I knew she was the one responsible for fixing everything, whilst hiding how broken she is herself. And she had a name: Renata Ghali, known as Ren.

Then I realised I had stumbled into the decision to write science-fiction. Set a book in a colony on an alien planet and there’s no getting away from it! I was filled with doubt. With the character at the core of the story, rather than a science-focused big idea, could I pull it off?

Then another article caught my attention, one about the idea of a ‘secondary genome’ and how we are slowly becoming aware of how much our health and the functioning of the human body is dependent on the bacteria within our gut. It sparked off another line of ideas about how humans could adapt to an alien environment.

Between the 3-D printing, the secondary genome and thoughts about how communication technology could develop, there was no stopping me. The doubts were soon subsumed by the ideas as more were folded into the mix; the tension between religious belief and scientific investigation, the need for ritual and faith, how secrets can eat away at us from within and how technology can facilitate community without solving the problem of isolation.

Planetfall was the hardest book I’ve written to date, feeling more like a careful excavation than a joyful tumbling through a first draft. Now I can stand back and say I have written a science fiction novel with the protagonist front and centre who is just as important as the plot and the science. It’s my hope that when people read it, they will be left with the memory of Ren as much as the ideas contained within the pages.


Planetfall: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Kobo

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