New Books and ARCs, 11/21/16

Time to catch up on the latest books and ARCs that have come to the Scalzi Compound! What in this stack looks particularly appealing to you? Tell us in the comments!

Print Version of The Dispatcher: Coming in May 2017

For those of you hoping for a print edition of The Dispatcher, your hopes have been answered: Subterranean Press will be releasing its version in May 2017. In addition to standard trade hardcover and eBook editions, Subterranean is also offering a limited (400 copies), signed edition for collectors and especially fervent fans. You know who you are, and yes, I love you dearly.

Note that the Subterranean version of The Dispatcher cover with both cover and interior art by the amazing Vincent Chong, who has done fantastic work on many other of my SubPress releases, including the OMW limiteds, and The God Engines (his work on that remains a personal favorite). When SubPress told me Vinnie was on the case again with The Dispatcher, I may have squeeed just a little. His work here continues to be sublime.

This is also a fine place to thank everyone who downloaded the audio version of The Dispatcher during October. We moved tons of them (like, six figures worth), which made both me and Audible happy. This Subterranean version also makes me happy. Basically, I’m just kind of happy about the story.

(And for the folks who are asking whether there will be more stories in this universe — I plan on it, yes. I really like this universe. Don’t ask me when, though. Because that I don’t know yet.)

Thoughts On My Trump-Era Novels

I had someone ask me to what extent Trump et al is going to have an impact on my creative life, specifically my novels. It’s a question with no particularly easy answer, but let me try to tackle it.

First and foremost, I can’t truly know because I don’t know what will happen in the next four years. There are some things you can guess — we will have a hard right government which feels no shame about its various bigotries, and is headed up by an incompetent and corrupt political naif, so I see some very probable scenarios emerging from that — but at the end of the day the future is still unwritten, and because it is I don’t know how it will have an effect on the nation and me. I don’t know what impact it will make, if any, on my writing, or how it sells once it’s out in the world. So, to a very great extent I simply can’t say with any certainty.

The other thing to consider is that I don’t generally intentionally put contemporary political themes in my science fiction, particularly the fiction that’s meant to represent a time hundreds or even thousands of years in the future. My go-to explanation of this is that having future characters model contemporary political tussles is like us today having passionate arguments about the Alien and Sedition Acts specifically, and our world divided up into brawls between Jeffersonians and Adamsians. As a fiction writer, I don’t generally create my universes to exactly mirror events or controversies that happen in the real world, so the political tensions and arguments don’t track one for one with what’s going on here. Also, bluntly, I have outlets for my real world thoughts on any particular political or social event I want to write about (hello!), so I don’t feel the need to larder my fiction with those thoughts.

With that said, it would be obtuse of me to suggest that as a thinking human living through historical events, I don’t soak up the world around me, and that how I think of it doesn’t come out of my fingertips and down onto the page. I am certain the Bush years affected the first four books of the Old Man’s War series and also The Android’s Dream; I’m likewise certain Obama’s America had an impact on Fuzzy Nation, Redshirts, Lock In and the later two books in the OMW series. I’m pretty sure the interminable election season of 2016 made its mark on The Collapsing Empire.

But it’s not always that direct. To make the point that the times make a mark on one’s career in ways one doesn’t anticipate — or that track directly to the day-to-day events in the real world, let me offer you an example. In 2008, I was meant to write a five-book YA series for Tor Books; we had discussed it, I plotted it out, everyone was enthusiastic and all that was left was contract negotiations… and then the mortgage crisis threatened to take down the entire global economy, we entered a recession and publishing was smacked pretty hard in a way that had a direct impact on that proposed series. You might notice there is a not a five-book YA series from me on the shelves. You might also notice there is a three-year gap between the release of Zoe’s Tale and the release of Fuzzy Nation, with no novels from me during that period. These are related events, stemming back, improbably, to the mortgage crisis.

If the mortgage crisis hadn’t happened — or even if the major economic collapse it precipitated had been delayed by just a month — my career would have been very different. If I had written that YA series, I almost certainly would not have written Fuzzy Nation, or Redshirts or, probably, Lock In (I probably would have written more OMW books, although if they would have been like The Human Division or The End of All Things is up in the air).

Would that alternate career have been better or worse? It’s hard to say (although I do suspect it would mean that at this point I would not have a Best Novel Hugo, so there’s that). What is easy to say is that I couldn’t have predicted how other people’s mortgages — and the governmental policies which had an impact on them — would make a difference to which novels I published, and when.

During the Trump administration, assuming he makes it through four years, I’m supposed to write four novels: the follow-ups to Lock In and The Collapsing Empire, and also two other novels. The times will find their way into those books whether I plot them to correspond directly to real world events or not (spoiler: I don’t plan to). How they will is at this point a mystery to me, as a) per above, I don’t know with any certainty where life is taking me or the nation, b) I haven’t written the books yet. We will see.

All I can say is that barring personal issues that impact my ability to write, or the collapse of the world as we know it, new novels will come out in the next four years. They’re already contracted for, for one thing. For another thing, I still like writing, and I still like making up universes for characters to romp about in (and expanding the universes I already built, in the case of sequels). I like my job. This new administration is not likely to stop me from doing it. And if it does, it’s because we all have bigger problems than whether I write a novel on time or not.

 

It Begins

The first snow of the season.

Well, first-ish, because it’s only sticking on my deck, and barely even there; the ground is still too warm for it to stick there for any amount of time, not least because it was 70 degrees yesterday around here. And the next ten days don’t have snow weather in them. Even so! It’s the end of the year reminding us that, yes, in fact, cold is coming. Probably. I’d be fine if this was the worst it got, personally.

Just Putting This Here Because It’s Blowing My Mind

This video is from the musician Sting’s kid, and holy buckets, does she (who identifies as non-binary so I may not be using the right pronoun) sound like her pop vocally. There’s no problem with that, and it does nothing to diminish from her own talents. It’s just, wow, eerie. I listened to the whole album this single is off of, called Information. It’s pretty good, so if you like this song, check out the rest of it.

Checking In, Eight Days On

I’ll do this one in Q & A format, in no small part because it will include questions that people have actually asked me, and that I want to address:

So, Scalzi, how are you doing?

I’m better than I was last week, thanks. I’m eating and sleeping normally again, and I can go for hours at a time without thinking about the fact that a racist buffoon will soon be President of the United States, and when I do think of it, the emotion I feel is closer to exasperation than outright despair. This doesn’t mean it’s not still a problem — hey, look at the mess he’s making of the transition! — but that my reaction to it is more usefully in line.

Plus, you know. A week’s enough time for me. President Obama (enjoy that while it lasts) had a conference call to Democrats in which he said he’d give people until Thanksgiving to grieve and then it would be time for them to get their shit together (I’m paraphrasing). I think for most people that’s about right. I needed a little less time. Others might need more. But by and large, after a while you have to stop being sad, or at least just being sad, and you gotta figure out what to do after that.

Which includes the rest of your life, I will note. Today I talked to my editor about which books I’ll be publishing over the next couple of years, and with my agent about some business in Germany, and later today my new monitor will arrive and I’ll reinstall my desktop and later on I’ll help my wife take a spare sofa we have over to the house of a friend, and so on. I don’t think any of us can or should ignore the mess that’s happening or the mess we’re going into. But everything else is still going on as well. I don’t think you can effectively deal with the former without keeping up with the latter.

But you’re still pissed, yes?

Well, yeah. That’s not going to change any time soon. We’re going from a president who was competent and scandal-free to one who is… not, in either case, and who is bringing along anti-semites and grifters and putting them at the levers of this country. Over in the congress, Paul Ryan and his party pals are salivating at the idea of breaking Medicare and the ACA. Around the country, bigots are celebrating Trump’s win by yelling at minorities, women and LGTBQ folks and leaving racist, threatening messages for them. And Trump’s not even president yet. Yes, I’m still pissed.

But I don’t think that it’s useful or effective for me to be pissed every single moment of my waking life. Scratch that — I know it’s not, because I’m me, and I know me and my body. More than that I just don’t think I could do it. So, yes. I’m going to be pissed, and I suspect I’ll continue to be. I’m going to be other things, too, in their moment.

So be honest with us: How bad do you think it’s going to get?

Well, as I said on Twitter yesterday, it’s sad when “too incompetent to function” is the best-case scenario with an incoming presidential administration. At this point it’s pretty clear that Trump didn’t expect to win, and maybe didn’t even want to win, and as a result he really made no plan to be president. But he did win, and now he has to work with the people he brought with him, and, well. He’s not bringing the best, is he? Cronies and sycophants and bigots, very few of whom have government experience or know how any of this works. I mean, there’s Pence and Gingrich (shudder) and then…? They don’t even have Christie anymore, now that Jared Kushner has chucked him and all his pals out of the boat.

We’ve had massively corrupt and incompetent administrations before — Harding and Grant come to mind, and George W. Bush’s administration was no great picnic either, although it’s rapidly looking better than it used to — and we’ve survived them. But we didn’t do ourselves any favors having had them. Be that as it may, if Trump’s administration suddenly developed competence, it might be terrifying. If all Trump’s administration gives us is incompetence and graft, then we’ll have gotten off easy. The problem is that Trump is an easy-to-goad narcissist who will have control of a military and a nuclear arsenal, and also he doesn’t actually give a shit about democracy, so there’s a lot more that could go worse than not. I don’t think Trump will get a chance to use the nuclear arsenal, but then I also thought he wouldn’t be president either, and look where that got me.

The problem isn’t that I don’t know what Trump and his party pals are going to do. The problem is that they don’t know. Trump didn’t have policies, he had stump speech lines. Now Trump has literally no idea what to do next. And if he doesn’t know, how can any of us know? The only thing we can do is believe his stump speech lines and work from there. The result is nice if you’re white, male and in the 1%. It’s less rosy for everyone else.

So: I think it’s going to be bad. I hope that the bad falls within historical norms. I wouldn’t count on it.

Then what can people who oppose Trump do?

Well, first you can remember that Clinton got more individual votes than Trump did. Trump won’t become president because more American voters wanted him to be so. He’ll become president because of the electoral college. And while that’s the way that goes, the point is of this —

But if we convince enough electoral college electors that Trump is bad they can choose not to vote for him! 

Yeah, I mean, you can try that? But let me be real blunt and tell you that’s pretty much in the category of “wishful thinking,” and in the meantime the electors who are getting calls and emails are probably feeling like they’re being doxxed and harassed. Which is not going to help.

But Trump!

I know. I’m unhappy too. Look, I’m not telling you that you can’t do it, if you think you must. I am telling you that I wouldn’t do it, I don’t think it will work, and that you’re probably just antagonizing people and maybe even making them feel unsafe and afraid. Your call.

Grumble. Continue, then. 

— as I was saying, Clinton got more individual votes than Trump. When you realize that the (yes, tiny but even so) plurality of American voters who roused themselves to vote didn’t vote for an incompetent bigot and his racist, sexist, anti-Semitic funboy pals, it’s a comforting thought. There are more of you than of them. And while that’s a cold comfort because Trump and his pals are still going to be running the country, remember that you’re not alone and that you still have a lot of power to speak and protest and effect positive action. Which will take effort on your part. If the whole of your political and social action is retweeting people (including me), you have a problem. The next four years will require more from you, I expect.

And also, for fuck’s sake, vote. Everyone has a favorite reason for why Trump won — racist fan boys, James Comey, voter suppression, emails, fake news, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein — and my favorite, which I will note does not obviate any other possible explanation, is that generally fewer people showed up to vote. Now, I think that is in no small part to voter suppression; when you make it harder to vote, then people don’t vote as much. But I don’t think it can be laid entirely at the feet of that. I think some people just… sat this one out. One of the less amusing little tidbits to come out of the protests that have been going on around the country is that at least some of those now protesting who could have voted, didn’t. And my thought about that is: You can make time to stand around yelling, but not make time to vote? Gee, thanks.

I am a Trump voter and I am not sad that I voted for him!

This is my standard response to Trump voters: I hope you never have cause to be unhappy that you voted for him.

What is that supposed to mean?

I mean that — to the extent that one subscribes to the idea that Trump voters gave him the nod for economic reasons rather than the other, more racist features of his campaign, which is a thing many will tell you — I am skeptical his administration will be beneficial to anyone other than those who are in or near the top 1% of income earners in the country. For that one percent, and leaving out all the short- and long-term repercussions of Trump’s trade, social, international and environmental policies, which are likely to be considerable, he’s going to be great. But for everyone else the crystal ball is less clear.

We’ll see.

Yup, we will. I will say that for the sake of my neighbors, and again on purely economic grounds, I hope I’m wrong.

I will also say that if you did vote for Trump for racial reasons, then fuck you, and I hope you’re bitterly disappointed.

Hey, now that you brought it up, this Vox article says that calling people racist isn’t the way to confront racism.

I don’t necessarily disagree, depending on the situation.

But you wrote that piece where you called people racists!

What I wrote was that people who voted for Trump for reasons other than racism still had to accept that they voted for racist policies as part of his overall package, and that those racist policies will have an effect on other people’s lives.

That’s a subtle distinction, pal.

I suppose it might be for some. To be clear, again, I don’t think most people who voted for Trump would be actively racist or bigoted to another person in their day-to-day lives; most of the people I know who voted for Trump — and I know many — are in that “not actively racist” category. But that doesn’t change the fact that Trump has racist policies (and sexist policies, and Mike Pence, his VP, is definitely homophobic as shit, and considering Trump is going to leave a lot of policy to him, that’s a thing), and they weren’t hidden. People knew they were there and voted for them anyway. It’s not an accusation, it’s just a fact. One that Trump voters have factor in moving forward, whether they like it or not.

(To be clear, I do think that Trump did get nearly all of the out-and-out racist vote, too. The KKK and the American Nazi Party are delighted Trump won (and that Steve Bannon gets to hang out in the White House), and the people yelling racist, sexist, homophobic and anti-Semitic bullshit at other people from their cars are delighted too. Not everyone who voted for Trump is an active racist, but active racists love that they voted for Trump. And that, too, is a thing Trump voters have to factor in, whether they like it or not.)

As I’ve said before I think it’s okay to point out to people that their votes have consequences, intentional or otherwise, even if it makes them uncomfortable (especially if it makes them uncomfortable). And also, you know. If someone points out that Trump has racist policies and you voted for them when you voted for him, and your immediate reaction is to clutch pearls and cry how dare you call me a racist, maybe there’s some self-examination you need to do.

Okay, but, look, really: I’m not racist.

I’m very glad to hear it. One way you can show that is to be willing to step up when Trump and his administration pursue racist policies. And how will you know which policies are the racist ones? When in doubt, listen to the people who will be affected by them, and believe them.

(And do that for the policies that will affect women, too.)

(And the ones that will affect LGBTQ folks, too.)

(And so on.)

And that’s where I am, eight days on.

The Two Day Comment Window Thing

This is a Whatever housekeeping note, so if you’re not interested in that, feel free to skip.

When I got into the tough portions of writing The Collapsing Empire, I trimmed down the number of days that comments were open on posts from ten days (itself a markdown from fourteen days, itself a markdown from “open forever”), down to two. It’s been a month since I finished the book, and the comment window is still two days, so people are asking if that’s going to be a permanent thing now.

It is until further notice. For three reasons:

One, spam comments, which were endemic and horrifying back when I was leaving comments open indefinitely, are almost a non-issue now.

Two, without going into obnoxious detail about it, I’m a lot busier than I used to be, which is mostly to my benefit, but which also means I don’t have as much time as I used to to babysit comments, and Whatever, even after all this time, is still a one-man show. Two days per thread is basically what I can afford at the moment.

Three, honestly, in my experience about 98% of everything that’s actually interesting about comment threads happens in the first two days, and after that, what mostly happens is one of three things: A couple of people yelling at each other because they don’t know enough to disengage, people who are repeating things said upthread because they didn’t bother to read what anyone else said (I call this a “thread reset”), and trolls who are wandering by to “debate” after one of their gormless leaders points them in this direction. I can live without all three of those, so: Two days it is.

Will the comment window ever lengthen again? I don’t know. Maybe if I get less busy and/or learn how to manage my time better and/or ever hire an assistant. But otherwise, a two-day window is working for me. I’m keeping it.

Pragmatic Government in an Age of White Nationalism

Late last week I was interviewed about Trump and his incoming administration, and one of the things that came up was the practical issues involving government, as in, to what extent should the Democrats (or anyone) work with Trump and the GOP to make deals, pass laws and so on. My answer to this was that I was pragmatic about it and that if the Democrats could get something out of Trump and the GOP that they liked, then they should go ahead and take it. Not that they shouldn’t fight (oh, they should), but to take what they can get through the normal processes of government.

Note this interview was on Friday, and over the weekend, among other things, Trump moved noted white nationalist and anti-Semite Steve Bannon into a formal White House adviser role, a move hailed by both the KKK and the American Nazi Party. In retrospect this isn’t entirely surprising — Bannon was already on Trump’s team and honestly it’s not like Trump appears to know many people outside of his family and a small circle of either sycophants or ambitious leeches (Bannon’s in the latter category) — but it is reminder that Trump’s embrace of bigots during his candidacy was not just a cynical move to get into power, to be abandoned once in power. The Trump presidency is going to be dancing to the tune of white nationalism, and so for anyone actually doing business with them, there is a genuine question of moral hazard.

So the question is: How to address pragmatic governmental action an age of moral hazard? If Trump and the GOP, for example, introduce a well-funded infrastructure bill that will create jobs that will benefit Americans (as they certainly will, since the federal government only doesn’t spend when a Democrat is in the White House), how do Democrats approach that? Do you oppose it because you don’t want to be seen working with a white nationalist administration and its supporters? Do you press for things that you feel will make a difference (someone elsewhere suggested that Democrats should engage with an infrastructure bill only if they got things in it like Trump selling off his business interests and/or making it clear that no business of his could profit from the bill)? Do you go, “I’d support this bill from a Democrat,” and then vote for it?

Each comes with risks: Oppose it, you get pilloried in the Trump-friendly propaganda machine. Embrace it, you get accused of normalizing white nationalism. Try to modify, and you get a bit of both. Pick your poison. On the flip side, it’s entirely possible the GOP will just larder their bills with so much nonsense that the Democrats can just oppose them and not have to worry about the consequences. Remember: Clinton won the popular vote and Trump is coming in with low approval ratings. Despite the screaming of the Trump propaganda machine, and the fact of GOP majorities, he’s not invulnerable. He’s not even close.

And that’s something else to think about with with regard to pragmatic action: Trump and many of his fellow travelers are still viewed with suspicion by other parts of the GOP. If Democrats want to be able to hold the line against some of Trump (or his fellow travelers’) policies, then that might mean reaching across the aisle toward Republicans who, if they’re not exactly moderate, at least understand that they have moral hazards of their own. These next four years will not be normal, folks. Alliances of opportunity will spring up with the enemies of one’s enemies, and so on.

I’m having a hard time with the right answer here — or at least, I recognize that what I usually see as the right answer (take half a loaf when the whole loaf is out of reach) is going to be much more problematic over the next four years than it usually is. I want to believe pragmatic governmental action is still possible, because I think it will be needed. But I also know that that Trump, already a bigot, will spend the next four years with a white nationalist whispering in his ear. And that’s not nothing.

Veteran’s Day

Please give a thought today to those who served our country.

In other news, I’m taking the weekend off; I figure it’s a good time to disconnect for a bit. Take care of yourselves, and see you all on Monday.

How I’m Doing

Since people have asked, privately and online:

Well, I’ve been stressed and depressed, like a lot of people of my general political inclination. I pretty much didn’t sleep for 36 hours starting Tuesday morning, since basically my brain went into “hyper alert” mode and wouldn’t turn off. I finally got some sleep yesterday by collapsing on my office sofa for a few hours, then waking up back in “hyper alert” mode, and then taking some Excedrin PM to force my brain back to sleep for a full night’s rest. Actually getting a lot of sleep seems to have helped. I’m still irritated and annoyed but my brain doesn’t feel like it has to be on.

Likewise, no appetite at all, which is in fact my body’s “normal” response to stress (when I’m bored or have a lot of work, I snack. I’ve been bored or working more than stressed in the recent past, and my waistline shows it). As I noted on Twitter, on one hand, this is good because I’m trying to lose weight; on the other hand it’s bad because it’s not actually healthy. I think I had 500 calories yesterday because my body just wasn’t telling me to eat. Today I’m still not hungry but made myself eat anyway, and real food, not just Good and Plenty candies, which constituted the bulk of my calories yesterday.

While I was on Twitter during the election results, people commented to me that I seemed calm, and have since praised me on my calmness over the last couple of days. Well, you know. I can’t take too much credit for that; I generally get calm when I’m freaked out. This is usually to my benefit (I’m the one actually able to direct traffic while everyone else is running around with their heads on fire, etc), but the ledgers eventually balance down the line. The good news for you is, you won’t have to see that.

All of this is fine… for a couple of days. It’s okay for me (or anyone) to acknowledge events have stressed and depressed them and do what they do to process those emotions. I do believe that when you have the luxury of being able to just have your emotions, you should have them so that you can more or less get over them and get back to a more normal space. The good news for me is that I have that luxury right now. I don’t have any work that’s pressing, or any other commitments, so I could just have my little freak out. If I were still super stressed and depressed after a week, I would most likely seek help for it. That wouldn’t be normal for me, and I would need to fix it.

But I already know I’m coming out of it. One of the reasons I know I’m coming out of it is that I have this “Oh, okay, this is how it’s going to be? Well, fine, then bring it” attitude that is crawling up from the back of my brain. Some of you longtime readers may recall this particular attitude from the Bush years. I suspect things will be getting a lot more political here (so if this is something you don’t want with your Whatever reading: Fair warning).

But here’s the other thing, which is that I’m coming out of it because I know I am likely to be okay over the next four years. I’m straight and white and male and well off, and unusually for someone in my field, I have contractual stability in the form of multi-year, multi-book contract with a major publishing house. Literally, as long as I write a book a year I’m going to be fine, and my family is going to be fine, and if we’re not, well, we’re probably all screwed in a massive way that impacts even the most insulated. I have the luxury of being pissed off, and pretty much only being pissed off, and I also have the option of not being pissed-off when I want, and doing other things with my brain cycles.

But I know too many people — people that I like, people that I love — who don’t have my ability to ride it out, and won’t have the ability to just turn off the reality of a Trump presidency. People who are minorities, and/or LGTBQ, and/or women, all of whom fully expect rights to be taken away from them and a culture of hate to thrive, making their lives worse. People who have insurance through the ACA who know that the Trump administration has it as a priority to repeal the law, meaning that once again that medical insurance will likely be beyond their reach and they will simply have to hope they don’t get sick. My neighbors, who I expect are going to find out what the limits of Trump’s promises are, and how they will differ in reality from what he promised, and how much more difficult their lives will be because of it.

I believe that things are going to get worse for a lot of people I know, and by extension, for a lot of people I don’t know. I would like to be wrong on this — I would love to be wrong on this, please GOP and Trump, prove me wrong — but I don’t think I will be.

I have the luxury of getting over this election. I worry about the people who don’t. I suspect that worry isn’t going to go away for at least four years.

And that’s how I’m doing at the moment.

The Cinemax Theory of Racism

Yesterday I wrote here: 

If Trump’s administration indulges in the racism, sexism and religious and other bigotries that Trump and his people have already promised to engage in, we can assume it’s because his voters are just fine with that racism, sexism and religious and other bigotries — even if they claim to have voted for him for other reasons entirely. After all, Trump didn’t hide these things about himself, or try to sneak these plans in by a side door. They were in full view this entire time. If you vote for a bigot who has bigoted plans, you need to be aware of what that says about you, and your complicity in those plans.

I also last night tweeted this:

And wouldn’t you know, because of both, I’ve gotten comments and emails and tweets from people upset that I pointed out that voting for a public racist with clear racist policies means that one is abetting racism. I assume that they know for sure that they’re not racist, and wouldn’t be racist, so being accused of racism stings. They didn’t vote for racism! They voted to make America great again!

Well, so, okay. Let me give you an analogy here.

Let’s say you want HBO. So you go to your local cable provider to get HBO and the only way they’ll let you get HBO is to sign up for a premium channel package, which includes HBO but also includes Cinemax. Now, maybe you don’t want Cinemax, and you don’t care about Cinemax, and maybe never personally plan to ever watch Cinemax, but the deal is: If you want HBO, you have to sign on to Cinemax too. You have to be a Cinemax subscriber to get HBO. And you go ahead and sign up for the premium channel package.

Pop quiz: In this scenario, did you just subscribe to Cinemax?

And you may say, no, I subscribed to HBO, but I couldn’t get it without Cinemax. I’m an HBO subscriber, not a Cinemax subscriber.

And then someone points out to you, well, in point of fact, you are a Cinemax subscriber, look, there it is on your TV channel guide. Some of the money you pay in for your premium channel package goes to Cinemax and funds its plans and strategies.

And you say, but I never watch Cinemax or ever plan to.

And they say, okay, but you still subscribe to it, and you knew that in order to get HBO you had to get Cinemax, and you signed on anyway. You’re a Cinemax subscriber whether you ever watch it or not.

And you say, well, look, I really wanted HBO.

And they say, sure, enough that you were fine with accepting Cinemax to get it. Just don’t pretend you’re not currently subscribing to Cinemax, too. You clearly are. Look, it’s right there on your cable bill. You’re a Cinemax subscriber.

Now, to bring that analogy back to the point at hand. This election, you had two major Presidential providers. One offered you the Stronger Together plan, and the other offered you the Make America Great Again plan. You chose the Make America Great Again plan. The thing is, the Make America Great Again has in its package active, institutionalized racism (also active, institutionalized sexism. And as it happens, active, institutionalized homophobia). And you know it does, because the people who bundled up the Make America Great Again package not only told you it was there, they made it one of the plan’s big selling points.

And you voted for it anyway.

So did you vote for racism?

You sure did.

And you say, but I’m not racist, and I would never treat people in a racist fashion, and I don’t like being called out as having done a racist thing.

And others say to you, okay, but you knew that when you signed up for the Make America Great Again plan that active, institutionalized racism was part of the package. Your vote supports racism. By voting, you endorsed a racist plan.

And you say, but I didn’t want that part. I wanted the other parts.

And others say to you, that’s fine, but you knew that to get the other parts, you had to sign on for the racism, too. And evidently you were okay with that.

And you say, no I’m not, I hate racism.

And others say to you, but apparently you like these other things more than you hate racism, because you agreed to the racism in order to get these other things.

And you say, well, the Stronger Together plan had horrible things in it too.

And others say to you, yes, and you didn’t vote for that, you voted for this. Which has racism in it. You voted for racism.

And you say, stop saying that.

And the others ask, why.

I’ve written before on how people can benefit from racism and other forms of discrimination without actively and intentionally discriminating against others, and if you have the time I recommend reading the piece. Lots of people benefit from an institutionalized system of bigotry, etc (including me) without being a bigot themselves, i.e., going out of their way to keep other people down. That’s the nature of a bigoted system so endemic that you don’t even notice it’s there for the same reason the proverbial fish doesn’t notice the water.

I think you can very easily make the argument that a lot people who voted for Trump are not and would not actively be racist to another person in their day-to-day lives. I live among Trump voters, and the ones I live among are lovely and kind and perfect neighbors. They are what nearly anyone would describe as good people, me included. As are, I think, the majority of the people who voted for Trump.

But the fact remains that in voting for Trump, they voted for racism: It was right there in the package deal, front and center, and hard to miss. They voted for it anyway. And you may argue that voting for racism as part of a larger package deal does not a racist make, and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree, as far as what people do to others in their personal and day to day lives. But voting for racism will make personal, day-to-day life harder for the targets of that racism. Two days after the election, we’re already seeing that.

It’s perfectly fine to point out to people who voted for racism, that indeed, this is what they voted for. And also that if owning up to the fact that they voted for racism is uncomfortable for them, they should take a moment to think about how bad it is for the targets of that racism, and how bad it has yet to get.

For the Trump voters, Trump’s racism may have been just part of the package deal, the Cinemax they had accept to get the HBO. For those who are the target of that racism (and sexism, and homophobia), however, it’s not Cinemax. It’s their lives. Day to day, and every day. And they’re all too aware of what Trump voters signed up for, to get what they wanted.

Early Morning Thoughts on the Day After

Because, like I suspect a great many people, I couldn’t get to sleep tonight.

1. Well, I certainly missed that turn of events, didn’t I? To be fair to myself, pretty much everyone missed it — apparently even Trump’s pollsters thought he was going down in defeat last night — but I’m not responsible for other people, I’m responsible for me, and, well: Missed that one totally. I never thought Trump would win the election. I was wrong. He won it. My being wrong is on me.

Would he have won it with a different opponent? Would he have won it if the Supreme Court hadn’t gutted the Voters Right Act? Would he have won it if a significant number of people hadn’t voted for third party candidates? Or if James Comey hasn’t done his little email stunt in the last couple of weeks? These are interesting questions that don’t change the fact that in this reality, Donald Trump is the president-elect. The woulda, shoulda, coulda of things is irrelevant to that.

2. With that said, it is of note that the polling for this election cycle was essentially disastrously wrong, and — again to be fair — it was pretty much only Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight who warned people that if it was wrong, that the predictions for the race would fail in basically the manner that they did. Silver and his site predicted the outcome incorrectly just like everyone else, but he gets credit for saying “if I’m wrong, this is how that’s going to work” and as far as I can see pretty much nailing that. So, yay, Nate Silver? I would have rather it gone the other way and we all had a post-election laugh at his over-cautiousness. But it didn’t, and once again Silver is the smartest dude in the room, for what it’s worth.

Be that as it may, there is clearly something systematically wrong with how polling is being done. If poll after poll had Clinton leading in states she went on to lose, and often leading by more than a margin of error, then something’s going on. I don’t mean in a conspiratorial, “the polls are being manipulated, man!” sort of way. Again, it’s something systematic in how the polls are conducted and who they are reaching (and probably also something to do with this particular election cycle in itself). How does that get fixed? I’m sure someone will tell us. Maybe Nate Silver.

Much of my confidence about this year’s election was rooted in the polling, which had been reasonably accurate for the last few election cycles (both presidential and congressional), and like I said, while I own my own mis-estimation and being wrong, it’s also a fact that I was wrong along with a whole lot of people, including people for whom polling is their actual job. It’s a discomfiting place to be.

3. It will be no surprise to anyone I’m unhappy with the result of this election. Donald Trump was manifestly the worst presidential candidate in living memory, an ignorant, sex-assaulting vindictive bigot, enamored of strongmen and contemptuous of the law, consorting with white nationalists and hucksters — and now he’s president-elect, which is appalling and very sad for the nation. I don’t see much good coming out of this, either in the immediate or long-term, not in the least because if he does any of the things he promises to do, his impact will be ruinous to the nation. Add to the fact that he’s the GOP candidate, and the GOP now will have the White House, Congress and will appoint the next Supreme Court justice, and, well. There aren’t any grownups in the GOP anymore, and we’re going to find out what that means for all of us.

Here are some of the things it could mean: A conservative Supreme Court for decades, backtracking on climate change, the repeal of Roe v. Wade, curtailment of free speech, loss of medical insurance to millions, tax policy that advantages the wealthy and adds trillions to the national debt, punitive racial policies, the return of torture as a part of the military toolbox, and a president who uses the apparatus of the US to go after his personal enemies. And these are only the things Trump has said he’s ready to do — we don’t know what else he will do when he’s literally the most powerful man on the planet, with a compliant legislature and judiciary.

The GOP conceit is that somehow they will be able to control Trump, which is a theory that’s worked so well up to now. More realistically, I think the best that can be hoped for is that Trump simply becomes apathetic and bored and leaves actual governance to others, i.e., the Dubya maneuver. This didn’t work particularly well then, but it might be marginally better than the alternative. But no matter what, I don’t have much optimism for the next four years.

4. I’m a well-off straight white man, which means of all the segments of the population, the Trump years will likely punish me the least — I may have to adjust my investments so I don’t lose tons of money when the stock market tumbles (or just be willing to ride it out, just like in 2008), but otherwise, in the short-term at least, I’m likely to be fine. I can’t say the same for my friends and loved ones who are women or minorities or LGTBQ or who struggle financially to make ends meet, or some combination of all of those. I wish I could say to them that it’ll be fine and that they’ll be able to ride out the next four (or, God forbid, eight) years, but I can’t. Trump, himself racist and sexist, brought a bunch of racists and sexists and homophobes to the dance, and now he’s obliged to dance with them. Things could get pretty ugly for everyone who isn’t a well-off straight white man. Things are likely to get ugly.

A lot of my friends are scared of Trump’s America, in other words, and they should be. As Maya Angelou once said, when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. Donald Trump has shown us over and over again who he is; the worst of his supporters — the ones who will now feel like they have free rein to indulge their various bigotries — have shown us who they are, too. And while not every Trump voter is among the worst of people, they share the responsibility of having made anyone who isn’t straight, and white, and male, and well-off, less secure, less safe, and more frightened. That’s what they bought for us when they pulled the lever for Trump.

5. And we have to face up to fact that it was white people who brought Trump to us — Trump got the majority of white men and white women who voted. We can parse out why that was (and we can talk about how the minority vote was suppressed), but at the end of the day, the fact remains: Trump will be in power because white people wanted him there.

If Trump’s administration indulges in the racism, sexism and religious and other bigotries that Trump and his people have already promised to engage in, we can assume it’s because his voters are just fine with that racism, sexism and religious and other bigotries — even if they claim to have voted for him for other reasons entirely. After all, Trump didn’t hide these things about himself, or try to sneak these plans in by a side door. They were in full view this entire time. If you vote for a bigot who has bigoted plans, you need to be aware of what that says about you, and your complicity in those plans.

I voted against Trump — voted against him twice, in fact, since I also voted against him in the primary — and I voted against him in no small part because I found his bigotry shameful, and still do. I am proud that he did not get my vote; I’m as proud of that vote as any I’ve offered up. And as an American, I have no plans to take his bigotry lying down. I hope you won’t, either.

6. That said, it might be a little much to ask people to stand and fight today. It was a long night, and a depressing night, for a lot of us. Take a day. Or two. Or a week. Or however much the time you need for yourself to get your head around this thing.

But at the end of that time, I hope you come back to us. Looking at the numbers as they stand right now, Trump won by just about 300,000 votes Clinton got at least 100,000 more votes than Trump out of about 120 million individual votes cast. There’s a lot of us who will stand with you, when you’re ready to stand again with us. There’s work to be done over the next four years and beyond. We need to get to it.

Your Quadrennial “I Voted!” Thread

If you’re a US citizen, it’s time to do the thing, “the thing” being voting. It’s only the future of our country, after all. I like to believe that Whatever readers are the sort who will stick it out in a line to vote. Prove me right please: If you have vote, or when you have vote, let the rest of us know here!

So: Have you voted?

Sunset, 11/7/16

Don’t let the sun set on you tomorrow without you having voted, y’hear?

(I mean, unless you’re working late and the sun sets before you get to the polling place. As long as you’re on your way, that’s fine. But vote, okay? Don’t make me ask again!)

New Books and ARCs, 11/7/16

So that not everything this week will be about politics: Look! New books and ARCs that have come to the Scalzi Compound! Anything here tickle your fancy? Tell us in the comments!

One More Day

Thoughts on the Day Before:

1. Vote. Yes, I know, I’m a broken record on this score, but, hey, you know what? I don’t care. If you’re an American citizen and you have not done so already, go and vote. I would prefer you voted for Hillary Clinton, and generally any other Democratic candidates for national office at least, but obviously you should vote for whichever candidates are most congenial to your particular world view (and please think seriously about whether your preferred candidate is, in fact, congenial to your actual world view). Don’t vote just for president; vote down ballot as well. Do the work and take a little time to familiarize yourself with the positions of candidate and various issues. Look, just be a goddamned informed voter, okay? Please? It’s actually not too much to ask for.

2. I wrote my electoral predictions yesterday and in the intervening time the FBI announced that they weren’t going to do anything new regarding Clinton and those damn emails, which basically means the FBI and its director James Comey very publicly shat themselves, and smeared poop all over the election, for no good reason at all. What the little escapade did do, however, is remind people that the email “scandal” is largely bullshit, despite the fervent desires of many; I suspect it probably also enraged a number of Clinton supporters who see this as direct and intentional interference by the FBI on behalf of Trump — the new email scandal lasted just long enough, in fact, for the press to winkle out that at least some of the FBI New York office has it in for Clinton.

As I said on Twitter yesterday, this won’t have any effect on polls — it’s too late for that — but it might have an effect on voting, as in, some folks will be extra motivated to vote Clinton and down the ticket now. It’s one thing for Clinton to have to deal with all the ambient sexism that any woman candidate would have to, plus the three decades of animus she’s accrued. It’s another thing to believe the actual FBI is actively working to sabotage a presidential campaign out of spite. There was chatter that the FBI’s involvement might have cost the Democrats control of the Senate; I would suggest there’s just enough time for some really pissed Clinton supporters to get it back now.

3. On the other side of things, and obviously we’ll have to see if this holds, but at the moment it just kind of feels like the Trump campaign is kind of like a three-day-old birthday balloon left out in the sun, leaking air out of tiny pinpricks. Clinton’s FBI exoneration couldn’t have come at a worse time, a New York Times article about the Trump campaign’s last days is full of bathetic pathos, nearly all the national polls show Clinton with a durable lead, and in the state where there’s early voting, the latinx voters are coming out in force against Trump, building margins for Clinton that are, if not insurmountable, certainly a challenge to get over.

It’s not over — please vote! — but it doesn’t look good for Trump. It’s one thing to have everything come down to the wire, and it’s another things to have it like this, where it’s pretty clear the game is done, it’s just that the timer hasn’t run out yet, and everything is simply in garbage time now.

I don’t think this is a bad thing, mind you. There’s always been a chance that the more racist and horrible of Trump’s supporters would show up at polling places with their little man-props to “monitor” minority votes, and they still might, and of course Trump will stomp and mew about the vote being rigged no matter what happens. But the more it looks like it’s over before the vote is tallied up, the better chance we get through tomorrow without some regrettable incident.

Again, one big sign is how Florida falls. If it goes Clinton, Trump’s pretty much done. If it goes Trump, but North Carolina goes Clinton, he’s also pretty much done. If he gets both, buckle in, this will take a while.

4. But again, take nothing for granted, and remember I can be as full of shit and rationalizations as anyone. Vote.

I know! I keep saying it! Well, you know. I’ll say it some more before we’re done.

My Electoral Prediction, 2016

Here is the map I think is going to happen on Tuesday night, the one that carries Hillary Clinton to electoral victory and Donald Trump into heaving fits of frothing denial. I think it’s a realistic map (I also made pessimistic and optimistic maps, which I will show you a bit later), although I’m happy to concede that at least a couple states here are teetering, and a couple could go red and at least one could go blue. But to be honest I would be surprised if it varies too much from this map.

As ever, it seems, the key to whether Clinton supporters can breathe early or settle in for a long, anxious night will be Florida. If Clinton wins Florida (as I expect she will), then it becomes virtually impossible for Trump to win the election. If Clinton loses Florida but wins North Carolina, once again Trump is in a very difficult position.

None of this is news, of course; despite constant Clinton supporter panic over the months, Clinton has always been in the lead and Trump has always been the underdog. There are rather more ways for Trump to lose than Clinton. Clinton in fact can lose Florida and North Carolina and even New Hampshire, and still win, as evidenced by this pessimistic version of a Clinton victory map:

This isn’t a very happy map for Clinton supporters, since it will leave the Trump supporters howling and possibly riotous on Wednesday, but 270 is what you need, and this map gives it. And again it also illustrates Trump’s bind: He’s got a hell of an uphill climb to victory.

Having now just given the Clinton supporters here angina with this worst case scenario map, here’s what I think is the most optimistic Clinton map, short of a stunning blowout repudiation of Trump and the GOP, which to be honest I don’t see happening:

In addition to moving Ohio and Arizona into the blue, this map also gives Utah to Evan McMullin, a thing I currently find unlikely but not impossible given the general LDS dissatisfaction with Trump. Clinton fans would love to have Trump and McMullin split Utah and have her go right up the middle for the win, but, folks, listen to me: It’s okay to settle here. A McMullin win still deprives Trump of electoral vote oxygen.

I’ll note that my own “realistic” map is more optimistic in terms of Clinton electoral votes than either FiveThirtyEight (which as of 8am this morning, has Clinton at 292.5) or the Princeton Election Consortium, which has her at 312. In both cases, however, it’s important to note that they both have Clinton taking the election. At this point in time, there is basically no reputable estimator or poll aggregator that doesn’t have Clinton ahead in the electoral vote count.

Can Trump win? If you take my “pessimistic” map and give him Colorado or Wisconsin, then he can win outright. If he wins neither but takes Nevada (which after this week’s surge in early voting seems unlikely to me, but 538 still has it leaning red), then it’s an electoral vote tie, and the election goes to the House of Representatives, which realistically means Trump wins. It’s possible Trump wins. It’s also unlikely.

I feel pretty confident Clinton’s going to take it, but if you’re a Clinton supporter and still feeling edgy, I’m okay with that, too. Get out there and vote, and take all your other Clinton-friendly (or at least Trump-unhappy) friends with you. And while you’re at it, remember to vote Democratic down ballot as well. As I’ve noted before, Trump’s not the only problem here.

Again: Don’t panic, but don’t take anything for granted. When Trump loses — and I’m pretty sure he will lose — he’ll whine and complain and stomp his feet and continue to suggest the vote is rigged. He’s already doing that, complaining that the perfectly legal policy of letting people already in line when a polling time passes actually cast their vote constitutes “rigging,” rather than ensuring citizens their ability to exercise their right of franchise. If the vote is close, you best believe Trump, his people and the GOP are going to work the refs. So better if Clinton wins walking away.

That being the case, you know what to do: Vote, and this year, vote Clinton.

(Maps made with Vox.com’s electoral map maker: Click here to make your own map.)

View From a Hotel Window, 11/4/16: Frankfort, KY + New LA Times Article (on the Election, as it Happens)

First, here’s the view directly out my hotel window here in Frankfort. I’m here for my last public event of the year, the Kentucky Book Fair. I have two events tomorrow: A panel at 11am entitled How Geek Entertainment Took Over the World, and a solo thing at 1:25pm on the main stage. Here’s the schedule for the whole event. And I’ll apparently also have a table where you can wander by and have me sign things. If you’re in Northern Kentucky tomorrow, swing on by. It’ll be lovely to see you.

(Actually, I just remembered I do have one more event this year: I’m interviewing Justine Larbalestier about her new book My Sister Rosa on November 18 in Columbus at the Book Loft. That should be fun! Come see us. But please note that while it’s a joint event, I’m there to promote Justine and her new book, which, incidentally, is very very good. I’m there in sort of a journalistic capacity.)

Second, I have a new column up at the Los Angeles Times, where I am a critic at large, talking about dystopias and elections, and why while dystopias are fun to read, you wouldn’t want to live in one. Naturally, I recommend the column, and suggest you read it and share it. And also, you know, that you go vote. So we can avoid the dystopia that’s staring us right in the face, waiting to happen.

The Cubs, the 108-Year-Long Streak, and Old Man’s War

Photo by Arturo Pardavila, used under Creative Commons license. Click on photo for original.

This year, as the Chicago Cubs came closer and closer to winning a World Series, people wondered what that might mean for the Old Man’s War series of books. After all, in several places I had people in the books discussing the Chicago Cubs and their inability to win a World Series, and in The Human Division, it’s actually a plot point. So what happens to those books, now that the Cubs, after 108 years, have won a World Series?

Well, you know. In one sense, nothing. The books are fiction, take place in the “future” and in a multiverse where space travel isn’t actually traveling in space, it’s traveling from one universe to another, where things are (usually) just one electron position different. So now either the events of the Old Man’s War series have been pushed further out in the timestream, for at least another 108 years (or so), or we’ve just become a universe so improbable that it’s unlikely the events of the Old Man’s War book will ever happen in it, but those events continue, about a billion universes to our left.

Which is it? You choose, either is valid.

As a practical matter, mind you, I think the plot points still work, they just got more meta. Now readers in North America, at least, are aware that the long suffering of Cubs fans has come to a close, and will enjoy the presence of the plot point on that grounds (or if they’re Cleveland fans, not). Readers will hit those points in the books, enjoy the slight bit of cognitive dissonance, and then move on.

But of course, with all those assertions above, it’s possible I might be rationalizing just a tiny bit. In which case, yup, it’s time to come right out and admit it: Now the Old Man’s War books suffer from the same problem as all the science fiction stories before 1969 that named a first man on the moon, or the ones that imagined canals on Mars. The real world caught up to them and passed them by, waving as it did so.

And that’s okay. This is the risk you take when you put a plot point in your books that’s contingent on the real world. It is the fate of science fiction books and other media to be continually invalidated by real-world events, or at least, to have the real world catch up to it and then have the work, by necessity, consigned to a nearby but undeniably alternate universe. This had already happened to the Old Man’s War series in a small ways (no one calls hand-held computers “PDAs” anymore, but the folks in the OMW series do, because that’s what they called them in 2001, when I wrote the first book), and in larger ways for other books of mine. Agent to the Stars, for example, has a plot point involving an elderly Holocaust survivor. In 1997, when I wrote that book, that was still a reasonable thing. Today in 2016, it’s a pretty long stretch. In another ten years, Agent to the Stars will undeniably take place in the past, in an alternate universe.

The real world catches up to science fiction. It always does.

But it doesn’t always kill the book (or film, or whatever), thankfully. 1984 is still read despite the titular year now being more than 30 years in the past; we watch 2001 despite us not having moon bases or monoliths at the moment; people still enjoy the various Star Trek television series despite the fact the communicators in each iteration are laughably less complex than a smart phone today. People seem to get that science fiction stories have plot points and details that expire, or, at the most charitable, “go meta.”

I suspect that will be the fate of the Old Man’s War books. The Chicago Cubs in that universe are a plot point, but a minor one overall. I don’t expect that many people will decide that the Cubs continuing to be lovable losers there will be the thing that throws them entirely out of suspension of disbelief. And if it does, I mean, okay? Their life. Everyone else will either push out the timeline, enjoy the meta moment, or, alternately (and especially if they’re not baseball fans), not care. I think the books will survive, is what I’m saying.

In the meantime, congratulations to the Cubs and all their fans. As someone who attended college in Chicago, this is lovely moment; as someone who now lives in Ohio, this is a disappointment; and as someone who grew up in Los Angeles, I stopped caring one series back. No matter what, however, having the Chicago-Cleveland series decided in the tenth inning of a game seven is just about perfect. It could not have been written better.

I’ve gone on the record in years past saying it’s more existentially satisfying for the Cubs to keep losing than to ever win the World Series — they crown a World Series winner every year, after all, but no one else has a 108-year-long streak of futility to their name, with the potential to add to it every season. Streaks like that don’t come around every year, or even every century. Seems a shame to throw something like that away on mere winning. But, you know what? Right now, there’s not a single Cubs fan in the world, living or dead, who agrees with me, if indeed there ever was. That’s fair enough. I hope they all enjoy their moment of winning, and the end of the long, long, long losing streak. The Cubs earned it.

And, also, if they ever make a TV series or a movie series out of the Old Man’s War books, Chicago in the text will be replaced by Cleveland, and it will still work. Sorry, Cleveland. You know I love you.