And Now, the Latest Scalzi Acquisition

And to help us along with this, I am calling on your friend and mine, Whatever’s favorite recurring gimmick, the Fictional Interlocutor!

For the record, I’m not comfortable being called a gimmick.

I understand that entirely, and yet.

Hmmmph. Why are you bothering me now?

Because I want you to help me introduce the latest Scalzi acquisition!

(Rolls eyes) You know, there are only so many multi-necked guitars you can buy before the schtick gets old.

I understand that. Are you ready?

(Sighs) Fine, let’s get this over with.

Okay! Here’s the new thing:

Wow, what a surprise, you bought a new guitar.

Well, yes, but —

And it’s a three-string cigar box guitar with a silk-screened American flag! How very patriotic of you.

Thank you, but —

Only one neck, though. You’re slipping.

Well, look, one, not every guitar needs more than one neck. And two, the guitar isn’t actually the latest acquisition.

Come again?

The guitar isn’t the latest acquisition.

So… you’re showing off what, then? New shoes? Is this kindergarten show and tell?

Not the shoes.

(Impatient) Then what? The jacket? The pants? That clearly obvious neck wattle?

It’s not a wattle.

All right, it’s new, it needs time to grow into a wattle. It’s a wattlette.

That’s not even a word, and no to all of those.

I give up. What is it?

Here, let me reframe the photo. Maybe that will help.

Okay, so, your latest acquisition is a court summons for trespassing at a local church.

Well, see, that’s the thing. I’m not trespassing.

What do you mean?

That’s the latest Scalzi acquisition.

You… bought a church?!?


A church.




A whole church.

I mean, who buys a fraction of a church?

I… you… just… Dude. A church.

Come on. Yes. I bought it. Actually, we bought it, since Krissy is on the title as well.

… why?

I need an excuse?

Yes, you really do.

Fine. For a while now, Krissy and I have been talking about how we wanted to get some additional space for long-term business plans that we have. We had looked at other property in Bradford, but it didn’t fit for what we wanted to do. So were thinking of buying some land locally and building some office and storage space on it. I opened up a real estate site to see what land parcels might be available nearby, and as it happened this church had literally come onto the market that day, a couple hours earlier. In terms of what we needed a space for, this building offered it, along with a fair number of other options as well.

We set up an appointment to see it, were convinced it was worth pursuing, and made an offer. They accepted it. And if people are reading this, it means we’ve actually closed on the deal, and we’re now officially the owners of the building. We own a church.

You’re not planning to, like, start a religion or anything.

Well, as it happens, Krissy and I are both ordained ministers.


It’s true. It’s useful to officiate weddings. But to be clear, no, we have no plans to start a religion. The track record of science fiction authors starting their own religions is, shall we say, spotty at best.

You say that now. But you have a church

You’ll just have to trust me on this one.

We’ll see.

Fair enough.

And anyway, now you’re one of those people.

What do you mean?

Look, not everyone can just wake up, eat a donut and then buy a church on a whim.

I mean, it wasn’t a whim. As noted, we have practical reasons for wanting more space, and it just so happens that the space that best suited our needs locally came in the form of a church.

With that said, okay, sure. I’m now in that tier of authors with idiosyncratic real estate purchases. Some of these authors buy old movie theaters. Some buy Masonic temples. Some buy small islands. I’m getting a church. I’m not going to pretend it’s not a little eccentric. I actually like that. I will probably lean into it as we go along. 

So, how much are churches going for these days, anyway?

A bit more than a six-necked guitar, but inasmuch as this is a church in a small rural community, possibly less than you might suspect. Suffice to say we wouldn’t have gotten it if we did not believe it was within our means. The odd musical purchase aside, Krissy and I are fairly conservative in how we spend our money. This is a long-term project and investment and we’ve budgeted for it as such. 

What happened to the former owners? Did you defenestrate them or something?

There was no defenestration. The building was formerly owned by the Methodist Church, and as I understand it over time the congregation shrank and was merged with another congregation a bit down the road. When that happened, the Methodists didn’t need this building any more, and while they kept it in reasonably good repair (otherwise we wouldn’t have bought it), it wasn’t doing what it was intended to do for them, which was to be a place of worship and community. So they let it go to be useful to someone else, in this case, us.

How old is it?

It’s a little over eighty years old.

Is it haunted?

When word got out locally that we were buying the place, some former members of the congregation assured us that it was. However, if it is, they are Methodist ghosts, and I suspect that means they are reasonably friendly and that the haunting will be somewhat polite. 

You should start a bookstore/goth club/restaurant/[insert some other idea here] in that space.

When you buy your own church, you can do any of those things you like! As for us, be assured that we do have plans, and that we will work toward them over time. Again, this is a long-term project for us. I will say that one thing that Krissy and I have talked about is the desire to have the building continue to be part of the community, rather than entirely removed from it. Bradford has been good to us over the years, and we would like to return the favor. How best to do that is something we still have to think about. But it’s very much part of our planning for the place. 

What are you going to name it? Church of the Scalzi?

There’s already at least one of those, in Venice (right by the Scalzi Bridge!). But we might call it that, simply for convenience. I’m sure there will be other possible names: Church of the Infinite Burrito, First Assembly of the Bacon Cat, The Sacred Order of the Six-Necked Beast, and so on. If people have suggestions, they can leave them in the comments, along with any other questions they might have about the church, and us, and the fact that it’s our place now.

And I think that’s it for you today, fictional interlocutor.

I suppose so. But, dude.


You own a church.

I know. I know. 

— JS

View From a Hotel Window, 12/4/21: Seattle

The corner there is of the convention center in town, this weekend housing the Emerald City Comic Con. For me, at least, it’s going pretty well so far — people have been lovely, everyone’s masked and vaxxed, and the panels I’ve done have been fun. I’ve even gotten “off campus” to see friends, which is great. One more panel and signing today, and then I’m on my own recognizance until I get home very early indeed on Monday morning. There are worse ways to spend a weekend.

How is your weekend coming along?

Whatever Holiday Gift Guide 2021, Day Five: Charities

For the last four days, the Whatever Gift Guide 2021 has been about helping you find the perfect gifts for friends and loved ones. But today I’d like to remind folks that the season is also about helping those in need. So this final day is for charities. If you’re looking for a place to make a donation — or know of a charitable organization that would gladly accept a donation — this is the place for it.

How to contribute to this thread:

1. Anyone can contribute. If you are associated with or work for a charity, tell us about the charity. If there’s a charity you regularly contribute to or like for philosophical reasons, share with the crowd. This is open to everyone.

2. Focus on non-political charities, please. Which is to say, charities whose primary mission is not political — so, for example, an advocacy group whose primary thrust is education but who also lobbies lawmakers would be fine, but a candidate or political party or political action committee is not. The idea here is charities that exist to help people and/or make the world a better place for all of us.

3. It’s okay to note personal fundraising (Indiegogo and GoFundMe campaigns, etc) for people in need. Also, other informal charities and fundraisers are fine, but please do your part to make sure you’re pointing people to a legitimate fundraiser and not a scam. I would suggest only suggesting campaigns that you can vouch for personally.

3. One post per person. In that post, you can list whatever charities you like, and more than one charity. Note also that the majority of Whatever’s readership is in the US/Canada, so I suggest focusing on charities available in North America.

4. Keep your description of the charity brief (there will be a lot of posts, I’m guessing) and entertaining. Imagine the person is in front of you as you tell them about the charity and is interested but easily distracted.

5. You may include a link to a charity site if you like by using standard HTML link scripting. Be warned that if you include too many links (typically three or more) your post may get sent to the moderating queue. If this happens, don’t panic: I’ll be going in through the day to release moderated posts. Note that posts will occasionally go into the moderation queue semi-randomly; Don’t panic about that either.

6. Comment posts that are not about people promoting charities they like will be deleted, in order to keep the comment thread useful for people looking to find charities to contribute to.

All right, then: It’s the season of giving. Tell us where to give to make this a better place.

The Big Idea: Janice L. Newman

Author Janice L. Newman is thinking about love, what it means, and how it manifests… and not in the ways we always expect. In the Big Idea for her collection At First Contact, Newman explains why all these various looks of love matter to her.


It might seem tricky at first to identify a single “big idea” that runs throughout At First Contact. That’s because At First Contact isn’t one story – it’s three! Though they are all romances and all more or less queer, they are also quite different. They’re grounded in different genres (science fiction, paranormal, modern fantasy) and take place in different worlds.

And yet common threads do run throughout the volume. Themes of loneliness, isolation, and alienation are visible in the weave, complementary colors that draw the three disparate pieces together into a coherent whole.

Looking back, it’s hard to believe that I started writing the first story, the eponymous “At First Contact”, before the pandemic. The main character’s disgust and fear of germs seemed exaggerated back then, a phobia that people could sympathize with, but not really identify with at a gut level. The isolation wrought by such a phobia, to the point where a lonely mission to an unknown planet actually brings a kind of freedom, seemed even more extraordinary… back then.

Now, it’s impossible for me to read the story through anything but the lens of the pandemic. The revulsion at the idea of touching the same doorknob or elevator button as another person, the horror of breathing someone else’s air, these became visceral. Then, too, the mingled feelings of safety and alienation born of nearly complete isolation are now familiar and real.

“Ghosted”, on the other hand, was written at the height of the pandemic. It doesn’t get much more isolated than being a ghost who can only interact with one other person. Yet the story is not from Will’s point of view – it’s from Leo’s. Leo, who walked down the beaches of Southern California in the afternoon sunshine, maskless, as I longed to do. Leo, who searched for the human connection he was missing after the disappearance of his ironically incorporeal friend.

“A Touch of Magic” was written late in the pandemic. I was more than ready to go back out to the real world. Yet physical issues made it hard for me. I’d spent so much time sitting, constantly hunched over my desk, and it took a toll on my body that affects me still. Chronic pain and physical difficulties thus wove their way into the background of the third story whether I wanted them to or not.

But while isolation, alienation, and loneliness exist as common themes across all three stories, there are also counterpoint themes: those of finding love, hope, and acceptance, especially in surprising people and unexpected places.

At least one character in each of the three novellas that make up At First Contact is alienated in some way. For some, the alienation is mental, perhaps a phobia of germs or simply a fear of people. For others there are physical reasons that they cannot participate in ‘normal’ social activities. In one case, an android experienced deep trauma during his initial programming. These characters are shaped, but not defined, by their phobias, traumas, and chronic pain.

At First Contact is not about ‘fixing’ these issues. Nor is it really about learning to work around them. All of the characters so affected have been dealing with these difficulties for most or all of their lives. They already have coping strategies in place. In some cases, the very things that have kept them apart from society even prove to be advantages.

Whether a character is ultimately ‘healed’ or not is never the point of a story. And when love develops between one character with difficulties and another, it’s neither ‘despite’ nor ‘because of’ their issues.

Alienation doesn’t just happen between a person and society. It can exist between a person and their own body. It can affect their view of themselves and make them feel unworthy of love, of care, of happiness.

It may not take a shape we expect. We may think ourselves unworthy of it. But The Big Idea underpinning all three stories in At First Contact comes down to this: no matter how isolated or alienated we are – from society, from each other, or from ourselves – love is possible for all of us.

At First Contact: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Bookshop|Powell’s

Follow the author on Twitter.

Whatever Holiday Gift Guide 2021, Day Four: Fan Favorites!

For the first three days of the Whatever Gift Guide 2021, I’ve let authors and creators tell you about their work. Today is different: Today is Fan Favorites day, in which fans, admirers and satisfied customers share with you a few of their favorite things — and you can share some of your favorite things as well. This is a way to discover some cool stuff from folks like you, and to spread the word about some of the things you love.

Fans: Here’s how to post in this thread. Please follow these directions!

1. Fans only: That means that authors and creators may not post about their own work in this thread (they may post about other people’s work, if they are fans). There are already existing threads for traditionally-published authorsnon-traditionally published authors, and for other creators. Those are the places to post about your own work, not here.

2. Individually created and completed works only, please. Which is to say, don’t promote things like a piece of hardware you can find at Home Depot, shoes from Foot Locker, or a TV you got at Wal-Mart. Focus on things created by one person or a small group: Music, books, crafts and such. Things that you’ve discovered and think other people should know about, basically. Do not post about works in progress, even if they’re posted publicly elsewhere. Remember that this is supposed to be a gift guide, and that these are things meant to be given to other people. So focus on things that are completed and able to be sold of shared.

3. One post per fan. In that post, you can list whatever creations you like, from more than one person if you like, but allow me to suggest you focus on newer stuff. Note also that the majority of Whatever’s readership is in the US/Canada, so I suggest focusing on things available in North America. If they are from or available in other countries, please note that!

4. Keep your description of the work brief (there will be a lot of posts, I’m guessing) and entertaining. Imagine the person is in front of you as you tell them about the work and is interested but easily distracted.

5. You may include a link to a sales site if you like by using standard HTML link scripting. Be warned that if you include too many links (typically three or more) your post may get sent to the moderating queue. If this happens, don’t panic: I’ll be going in through the day to release moderated posts. Note that posts will occasionally go into the moderation queue semi-randomly; Don’t panic about that either.

6. Comment posts that are not about fans promoting work they like will be deleted, in order to keep the comment thread useful for people looking to find interesting gifts.

Got it? Excellent. Now: Geek out and tell us about cool stuff you love — and where we can get it too.

The Big Idea: Shannon Fay

Location, location, location: Often where an author is can inform the stories that they eventually choose to tell. Location mattered for Shannon Fay for her novel Innate Magic… and not just because of the landmarks.


A big inspiration for Innate Magic came from London itself. I wanted to show what it is like to be cash-poor and time-rich in a place that has so much to offer but costs so much to live in.

I moved to London in the spring of 2015 with nothing but a suitcase and backpack. About a month into this grand adventure, my suitcase was stolen. I had no clothes but what I was wearing, no job lined up, and nothing but a cache of weak Canadian dollars which were dwindling by the day. But I was ecstatic. So what if I couldn’t afford to take the tube and had to bus everywhere—the top flight of a double decker offered the best view of the city anyway. So what if my job was a zero-hours contract café gig—I got free food. So what if most of my pay cheque went to the exorbitant rent I was shelling out for half a room in an overcrowded house—the museums and galleries were free.   

Eventually I got a job at the National Portrait Gallery, which was a godsend—I was much better at giving talks about paintings than I was at making lattes (to everyone whose order I got wrong, I’m sorry. I had no clue what I was doing). At the NPG, I learned so much about British history, which inspired me to set my historical fantasy novel in 1950s England. In the UK, the post-war years were a time of scarcity. Rationing was still in place late into the 1950s, and many cities were still rebuilding after the damage done by the blitz. Even though it was over fifty years ago, I felt many of the same issues were still resonant with present-day London—the concern about smog and pollution, constant construction, the friction that comes from so many people living so closely together.

At the gallery, one portrait that caught my eye was Cecil Beaton’s oil painting of a man called John Vassall. John Vassall was a gay man who, in the 1950s-1960s, was blackmailed by the KGB into handing over British naval secrets. At the time gay men were very much prosecuted in England, another example of this being when the codebreaker/mathematician Alan Turing was convicted of indecency after it came out that he slept with other men. For myself, a white cis woman living in the year 2015, London was one of the first places where I felt comfortable enough to be out as a queer person—I have a lot of happy memories of the talks and events I did with the gallery’s LGBT+ Employees Network.  But even today gay people are still harassed in the city, and transgender people in particular have to deal daily with being vilified by the media. 

The main character of Innate Magic, Paul Gallagher, is queer—specifically, bi, like I am. Growing up I had so rarely seen people like me in the books I read, so I wanted to put that into the world. Paul might live in a time and place that is hostile to him, but being an optimist, he weathers it the best he can, focusing on the people he loves rather than the people who hate him.

In Innate Magic, the main character Paul deals with many of the same things I went through while living in London. Like I did, he shares a room with his best mate. Every jaunt across the city comes with the calculation of how much it will cost. Food is precious. But despite his meagre living, Paul loves London. For him it is a city full of opportunity, a place where a Liverpool lad like him can learn magic and maybe even rise up in the world.

But it’s not as easy as just showing up. For all it has going for it, London does take a toll on you, and by the time my two-year visa was up, I was ready to leave. But London will always by one of my favorite places in the world. In Innate Magic, I tried to do justice to it, both its good and bad, what it offers and what it asks of you in return.     

Innate Magic: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound

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

Whatever Holiday Gift Guide 2021, Day Three: Arts, Crafts, Music and More

The Whatever Holiday Gift Guide 2021 continues, and today we move away from books and focus on other gifts and crafts — which you can take to mean just about any other sort of thing a creative person might make: Music, art, knitting, jewelry, artisan foodstuffs and so on. These can be great, unique gifts for special folks in your life, and things you can’t just get down at the mall. I hope you see some cool stuff here.

Please note that the comment thread today is only for creators to post about their gifts for sale; please do not leave other comments, as they will be snipped out to keep the thread from getting cluttered. Thanks!

Creators: Here’s how to post in this thread. Please follow these directions!

1. Creators (of things other than books) only. This is an intentionally expansive category, so if you’ve made something and have it available for the public to try or buy, you can probably post about in this thread. The exception to this is books (including comics and graphic novels), which have two previously existing threads, one for traditionally-published works and one for non-traditionally published works (Note: if you are an author and also create other stuff, you may promote that other stuff today). Don’t post if you are not the creator of the thing you want to promote, please.

2. Personally-created and completed works only. This thread is specifically for artists and creators who are making their own unique works. Mass-producible things like CDs, buttons or T-shirts are acceptable if you’ve personally created what’s on it. But please don’t use this thread for things that were created by others, which you happen to sell. Likewise, do not post about works in progress, even if you’re posting them publicly elsewhere. Remember that this is supposed to be a gift guide, and that these are things meant to be given to other people. Also, don’t just promote yourself unless you have something to sell or provide, that others may give as a gift.

3. One post per creator. In that post, you can list whatever creations of yours you like, but allow me to suggest you focus on your most recent creation. Note also that the majority of Whatever’s readership is in the US/Canada, so I suggest focusing on things available in North America. If you are elsewhere and your work is available there, please note it.

4. Keep your description of your work brief (there will be a lot of posts, I’m guessing) and entertaining. Imagine the person is in front of you as you tell them about your work and is interested but easily distracted.

5. You may include a link to a sales site if you like by using standard HTML link scripting. Be warned that if you include too many links (typically three or more) your post may get sent to the moderating queue. If this happens, don’t panic: I’ll be going in through the day to release moderated posts. Note that posts will occasionally go into the moderation queue semi-randomly; Don’t panic about that either.

6. As noted above, comment posts that are not from creators promoting their work as specified above will be deleted, in order to keep the comment thread useful for people looking to find interesting work.

Now: Tell us about your stuff!

Tomorrow: Fan Favorites!

Whatever Holiday Gift Guide 2021, Day Two: Non-Traditionally Published Books

Today is Day Two of the Whatever Holiday Gift Guide 2021, and today the focus is on Non-Traditionally Published Books: Self-published works, electronically-exclusive books, books from micro presses, books released outside the usual environs of the publishing world, and so on. Hey, I put my first novel up on this very Web site years ago and told people to send me a dollar if they liked it. Look where it got me. I hope you find some good stuff today.

Please note that the comment thread today is only for non-traditional authors and editors to post about their books; please do not leave other comments, as they will be snipped out to keep the thread from getting cluttered. Thanks!

Authors/editors: Here’s how to post in this thread. Please follow these directions!

1. Authors and editors of non-traditionally published books only. This includes comics and graphic novels, as well as non-fiction books and audiobooks. If your book has been traditionally published — available in bookstores on a returnable basis — post about your book in the thread that went up yesterday (if you are in doubt, assume you are non-traditionally published and post here). If you are a creator in another form or medium, your thread is coming tomorrow. Don’t post if you are not the author or editor, please.

2. Completed works only. Do not post about works in progress, even if you’re posting them publicly. Remember that this is supposed to be a gift guide, and that these are things meant to be given to other people. Likewise, don’t just promote yourself unless you have something to sell or provide, that others may give as a gift.

3. One post per author. In that post, you can list whatever books of yours you like, but allow me to suggest you focus on your most recent book. Note also that the majority of Whatever’s readership is in the US/Canada, so I suggest focusing on books available in North America. If your book is only available in the UK or some other country, please let people know!

4. Keep your description of your book brief (there will be a lot of posts, I’m guessing) and entertaining. Imagine the person is in front of you as you tell them about your book and is interested but easily distracted.

5. You may include a link to a bookseller if you like by using standard HTML link scripting or URL. Be warned that if you include too many links (typically three or more) your post may get sent to the moderating queue. If this happens, don’t panic: I’ll be going in through the day to release moderated posts. Note that posts will occasionally go into the moderation queue semi-randomly; Don’t panic about that either.

6. As noted above, comment posts that are not from authors/editors promoting their books as specified above will be deleted, in order to keep the comment thread useful for people looking to find interesting books.

Now: Tell us about your book!

Tomorrow (12/1): Other creators (musicians, artists, crafters, etc!)

The Big Idea: Ian Douglas

How to get readers to accept the impossible — or, at least, the wildly implausible? Author Ian Douglas has a technique for that, and in this Big Idea for Solar Warden: Alien Hostiles, he’s come to lay it out for you.


Solar Warden: Alien Hostiles is the second book in an SF trilogy, and the big Big Ideas in that entry are of course those that define the entire series. Big Ideas for the individual entries in the series are, perforce, based on the defining motifs for the trilogy as a whole. The Biggest Idea, then, for the entire Solar Warden series involves a rather strange series of suppositions:

What if one of the major conspiracy theory clusters of the 21st century is absolutely true?

What if Roswell really happened, and the U.S. government captured and reverse-engineered recovered alien spacecraft?

What if the government secretly established diplomatic relationships with those aliens, and received substantive help in creating a space navy with technology that would put Star Trek to shame, a navy out exploring the Galaxy right now, and not centuries hence?

And what if not all of those advanced alien civilizations have our best interests at heart?…

This is precisely the scenario suggested by Scottish hacker Gary McKinnon in 2002, who claimed to have discovered top-secret files and photographs when he broke into NASA and U.S. Department of Defense computer networks in what one government official called “the biggest military computer hack of all time.” I took his tale of giant human-crewed starships and an extraterrestrial Navy and flew with it. After all, one takes one’s inspiration where one can.

I was, of course, taking a marketing risk in pursuing this concept. UFOs still carry something of a giggle factor even in this day of inexplicable U.S. Navy camera footage made public, and many stories about them are just plain silly, to say the least. This often leads critics to dismiss books featuring alien visitations as just tired old retreads of the same-ol’ same-ol’.

One way I got around the familiarity of the typical UFO story was to join the scoffers’ club and debunk some of the ideas and theories within the genre. This allowed me to weed out some of the truly nonsensical ideas floating around out there… and to weave what remained into a more or less coherent whole.

For example, I trashed one wild story about a 1970s exchange program with Zeta Reticuli  in fairly short order, though I expect numerous True Believers will take me to task for such blasphemy. Zeta Reticuli is a real star—two stars, actually, orbiting some 400 astronomical units apart. In current UFO lore, Zeta Retic is home to an alien civilization, and a supposed diary kept by one of the human visitors to the planet described in some detail the double star in the sky—complete with a melodramatic vista like the one seen on Star Wars’ Tatooine. I discussed, in passing, how that description could not possibly be true in light of what we know about the actual system. By giving the lie to a self-evidently preposterous hoax in the narrative, I helped readers swallow other wild ideas that, at least marginally, seem a bit more plausible.

I was able to use this technique to expand somewhat pedestrian and often implausible ideas into more believable and less giggle-worthy scenarios, to mold and reshape the mad, discordant welter of existing UFO lore into a coherent whole. By debunking the obviously insane, what remained seems, by contrast, to be true.

And for me, it’s that feeling of truthfulness in the narrative that maintains its grip on SF readers from one improbability to the next, leading them into worlds and situations that are purely imaginal, the stuff of wonder.

While Alien Hostiles shares the overall Big Ideas of the trilogy’s story arc, it does have elements unique to it. Much of the book’s plot revolves around a character, a human from the far future slumming in the present, who became involved in helping the Nazis before and during World War II… though she saw it as a failed attempt to control them. During the course of my research, I learned of a historical person, one Maria Orsic, a mediumistic mystic who became a kind of high priestess to Himmler and other Nazi leaders obsessed with the occult and with information supposedly channeled from alien beings. As the story developed, I had the proverbial ah-ha moment and changed course in my writing, making my fictional time traveler and the historical Maria Orsic one and the same. The historical Orsic had written about the star Aldebaran and, before she mysteriously vanished, claimed to be off to join aliens there. This gave me the ultimate destination for Alien Hostiles’ journey and formed a solid foundation for the entire book.

Personally, I rather doubt Mr. McKinnon’s tale of Star Trekkian navies out among the stars today. And, damn it, the ubiquitous Gray aliens we’re always running into seem to me to be far too human than anything we’ll actually, and inevitably, encounter Out There. In Solar Warden  had a lot of fun coming up with an alternative explanation that, just maybe, makes more sense than truly alien creatures obsessed with human reproduction.

Well, I do try to get the science right in my tales, though this can make working with long-established cultural myths problematic. But ultimately, the goal in writing this sort of fiction is less about getting the science right or about “explaining” contradictory mythologies than it is about telling a taut, tightly woven story that feels true and which entertains the reader.And hey. If the story also makes the reader think—Dang! What if this stuff is true?—then so much the better.

Solar Warden: Alien Hostiles: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Bookshop|Indiebound

Read an excerpt.

Whatever Holiday Gift Guide 2021, Day One: Traditionally Published Books

Welcome to the first day of the Whatever Shopping Guide 2021 — Our way of helping you folks learn about cool creative gifts for the holidays, straight from the folks who have created them.

Today’s featured products are traditionally published books (including graphic novels and audiobooks); that is, books put out by publishers who ship books to stores on a returnable basis. In the comment thread below, authors and editors of these books will tell you a little bit about their latest and/or greatest books so that you will be enticed to get that book for yourself or loved ones this holiday season. Because, hey: Books are spectacular gifts. Enjoy your browsing, and we hope you find the perfect book!

Please note that the comment thread today is only for authors and editors to post about their books; please do not leave other comments, as they will be snipped out to keep the thread from getting cluttered. Thanks!

Authors/editors: Here’s how to post in this thread. Please follow these directions!

1. Authors and editors only, books only (including audiobooks). There will be other threads for other stuff, later in the week. Any type of book is fine: Fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, etc. If you are not the author/editor of the book you’re posting about, don’t post. This is for authors and editors only.

2. For printed books, they must be currently in print (i.e., published before 12/31/2021) and available on a returnable basis at bookstores and at least one of the following three online bookstores: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s. This is so people can find your book when they go looking for it. For audiobooks, they must be professionally published (no self-produced, self-published audiobooks) and at least available through Amazon/Audible. If your book isn’t available as described, or if you’re not sure, wait for the shopping guide for non-traditional books, which will go up tomorrow. 

3. One post per author. In that post, you can list whatever books of yours you like (as long as it meets the criteria in point 2), but allow me to suggest you focus on your most recent book. Note also that the majority of Whatever’s readership is in the US/Canada, so I suggest focusing on books currently available in North America (if your book is available only in the UK or elsewhere, please note that).

4. Keep your description of your book brief (there will be a lot of posts, I’m guessing) and entertaining. Imagine the person is in front of you as you tell them about your book and is interested but easily distracted.

5. You may include a link to a bookseller if you like by using standard HTML link scripting or a URL. Be warned that if you include too many links (typically three or more) your post may get sent to the moderating queue. If this happens, don’t panic: I’ll be going in through the day to release moderated posts. Note that posts will occasionally go into the moderation queue semi-randomly; Don’t panic about that either.

6. As noted above, comment posts that are not from authors/editors promoting their books as specified above will be deleted, in order to keep the comment thread useful for people looking to find interesting books.

Got it? Excellent. Then tell the folks about your book! And tell your author friends about this thread so they can come around as well.

Tomorrow (11/30/21): Non-traditional books!

The Big Idea: Jeremy Szal

Cover to Blindspace.

Authors often see themselves in their work. But sometimes, it takes a while for that to happen. This is a thing Jeremy Szal discovered while writing Blindspace. Here he is to delve further into that personal discovery.


I’ve always infused intensely personal material into my work. If you know me well, you’ll see it immediately if you read anything I write. Still, for someone like me who’s scribbling about worlds filled with asteroid cities, psychopathic AIs, alien drugs, spaceships, galactic empires, my fiction isn’t exactly what you’d call autobiographical. Not at first glance, anyway.

Vakov Fukasawa, the protagonist of Stormblood and Blindspace, spoke to me in a way no other character has during the writing process. He’s a visceral, broken wreck of a man who’s brimming with barely-concealed rage and anger – someone who’s been damaged and wants to deal damage in return. He’s got the DNA of an extinct (and genocidal!) alien race running through his veins, making him addicted to adrenaline and aggression. But despite all his viciousness and anger, he’s someone who loves fiercely and intensely from the heart. He’s withdrawn and brooding, and while he doesn’t want to get close to a lot of people, to his friends he gives his undying, unequivocal loyalty.

But it wasn’t until Book 2 that I realized how closely I was writing about myself.

I’d poured so much of own rage, my own anger, into him. Injustices I’d suffered at the hands of people I believed were my friends, the way I was treated like dirt as a half-Polish, half-Lebanese kid in an all-Catholic school in the Austrian mountains. Moments of mistreatment, oppression, all oozing out of me like blood from a wound. 

I’d taken my own flaws, passions, aspirations and laid them bare through his voice and his flesh, warts and all. I’d given him my own personal damage, intensely magnified, and watched him claw and fight against his demons, igniting in me a hope of battling my own.

Vakov isn’t me, of course. If he was, I’m pretty sure I’d be in jail. Vakov is a soldier riddled with PTSD. I’m not. He’s has alien DNA running through his blood and bones; demons that are, in many senses, literal. Mine aren’t. Rather, it’s the essence, the approximation of a personality, we share.

Still. He couldn’t remain stagnant. His personality, and the way he responded to the alien DNA in his body, had to adapt to new challenges.

Blindspace was written over a three-year period in my early 20s, during a time where my personality and worldview dramatically evolved. My capacity for compassion and empathy expanded. I learned to read the room. I learned to stop and listen when people I trusted told me things I didn’t want to hear. I got out of my comfort zone and started being more comfortable in my own skin. I made no excuses for how much I’d tolerate bullshit, or those trying to sell it to me. I gave myself permission to fail, as long as I picked myself up and tried again. I understood myself, and my place among people I cared about.

And I was no longer ashamed of the fire burning inside me: burning for both rage and love.

See, it always felt so strange to me to see character growth that involved moving past anger. To learning to let go of your feelings, emotions. To remain stoic and unflinching. Because then, what are you fighting for if not the things you care about so much it hurts? What do you become if you loose the part of yourself that makes you, well, you? How could I take my character on a path neither of us wanted?

I couldn’t take away Vakov’s rage anymore than my own. I tried half-heartedly in the early drafting days, but Vakov wouldn’t let me. He knew that I, that we, had a fire that burned too brightly to just fade away.

But there’s been times where I’ve misused my anger, where I’ve hurt people I cared about, pushed friends away, burned bridges, and ended up with nothing but guilt to show for it. I’m not proud of it. But those moments taught me a valuable lesson, and showed me the path forward.

So I trained Vakov to weaponize that fire inside him. He was no longer someone who responded to his violent urges in a knee-jerk capacity, hurling himself into danger alone, guns blazing, risking the lives of everyone around him.

Sure, he was fighting to protect the people he loves. But in doing so, he’d push them away, but as a result, would push them away. It was a macho, toxic mindset masquerading as heroism, dismissing and disregarding the people he wanted to trust.

So he resisted the dark, adrenaline urges caused by the, quite literal, aliens inside him. He began standing his ground, trusting his friends, working in unison with a team, no longer allowing himself to get swept up in his body’s urges. Slowly, he started taking a step back. To admitting his wrongdoing, acknowledging his urges and flaws, but not allowing himself to get swept up by them as he tried to do better, even as he never lost the rage and anger that was forged by trauma and hardship. And in doing so, he’s found a richness, a depth, to his personality and his relationships with others he’d never knew was there.

Sound familiar?

In many ways, me and Vakov have evolved in tandem. Vakov has taught me a lot, not only about myself, but the person I want to be.

Getting this book down, and going through life while writing it, has been a bloody, difficult journey at times. I’ve wanted to give in, admit defeat, and run away from it all, but Vakov’s dragged me back, because the stubborn bastard knows I’m not done yet. He knows I’ve still got our stories to tell, to let those fires burn bright.

And it’s only the beginning.

Blindspace: Amazon|Kobo|Google Books|IndieBound |Barnes and Noble

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

Whatever Holiday Gift Guide 2021 Starts Monday!

Every year as the holiday season begins I run a gift guide for the holidays, and over the years it’s been quite successful: Lots of people have found out about excellent books and crafts and charities and what have you, making for excellent gift-giving opportunities during the holiday season. I’ve decided to do it again this year.

So: Starting Monday, November 29, the Whatever Holiday Gift Guide returns! If you’re a writer or other creator, this will be an excellent time to promote your work on a site which gets tens of thousands of viewers daily, almost all of whom will be interested in stuff for the holidays. If you’re someone looking to give gifts, you’ll see lots of excellent ideas. And you’ll also have a day to suggest stuff from other folks too. Everybody wins!

To give you all time to prepare, here’s the schedule of what will be promoted on which days:

Monday, November 29: Traditionally Published Authors — If your work is being published by a publisher a) who is not you and b) gets your books into actual, physical bookstores on a returnable basis, this is your day to tell people about your books. This includes comics/graphic novels and audiobooks.

Tuesday, November 30: Non-Traditionally Published Authors — Self-published? Electronically published? Or other? This is your day. This also includes comics/graphic novels and audiobooks.

Wednesday, December 1: Other Creators — Artists, knitters, jewelers, musicians, and anyone who has cool stuff to sell this holiday season, this will be the day to show off your creations.

Thursday, December 2: Fan Favorite Day — Not an author/artist/musician/other creator but know about some really cool stuff you think people will want to know about for the holidays? Share! Share with the crowd!

Friday, December 3: Charities — If you are involved in a charity, or have a favorite charity you’d like to let people know about, this is the day to do it.

If you have questions about how all of this will work, go ahead and ask them in the comment thread (Don’t start promoting your stuff today — it’s not time yet), although I will note that specific instructions for each day will appear on that day. Don’t worry, it’ll be pretty easy. Thanks and feel free to share this post with creative folks who will have things to sell this holiday season.

— JS

Happy Consume All the Calories Day

Here’s the spread at the Scalzi Compound today: Turkey, ham, two types of cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potato soufflé, green bean casserole, sage stuffing, deviled eggs, dinner rolls. That doesn’t count the opening round of appetizers, or the desserts (pumpkin and pecan pies, ice cream, sugar cookies). I can’t imagine I ate less than five thousand calories today. It’s a miracle I’m still awake to type this.

If you’re in the United States, I hope today was one in which you reflected on the good things in your life, surrounded by people you care about. If you’re outside the United States, I hope you had a satisfactory Thursday.

— JS

Things I Am Thankful For, 2021 Edition

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the United States, and while I think a lot of people these days see that holiday mostly as a turkey-spangled speedbump in front of the unstoppable juggernaut that is Christmas, I do think it’s useful to take a moment and reflect on the things that one has to be thankful for, especially over the course of the year. So here are things I’m thankful for, here in 2021.

I’m thankful for Joe Biden. Not in a creepy, “this is my man and I will follow him unto death” sort of way, because, come on, no one thinks about Joe Biden that way, possibly not even his dog. I’m thankful for him in the sense that for ten months now I haven’t felt a sickness in my gut wondering what damn fool, possibly unconstitutional, definitely self-centering thing our president is doing today. I can in fact go entire days not thinking about Joe Biden, which honestly is both refreshing after the previous four years, and should be my right as an American, with regard to the President of the United States.

Biden’s not perfect by any stretch, and clearly his current approval ratings are, uhhhhh, not great. That said, he is performing pretty much to my expectations, and as well as he can, considering the 50 Democratic senators he has for his majority are actually 48 Democratic senators, one clearly-a-Republican-but-pretending-to-be-a-Democrat-for-lulz, and one chaos agent, considering the opposing political party has lost its mind and would rather burn the country to the ground than do anything useful, and considering that, like every other Democratic president in recent memory, Biden’s first job out of the gate was dealing with all the disasters and time bombs the previous administration left behind. One works with what one has, and Biden’s doing all right with that. Even if he wasn’t, he’s still better than what we had. Thanks for letting me not think about you, President Biden. I surely appreciate it.

I’m thankful I wrote a novel this year. And a novella too, actually, but the novel was, career-wise, a smidge more important. 2020 was a bust on the novel-writing front, for various reasons, mostly relating to the fact that reality was continually pulling focus on me, and the fact that the novel I was trying to write last year was meant to be a bit grim and cynical, and 2020 wasn’t the year to write grim and cynical (or at least, it wasn’t the year for me to write it). So to be able to turn around from that disaster scenario and write a novel that’s a) really fun, b) that I really like, c) and that my publisher is pretty damn happy with too, was, bluntly, a massive fucking relief. There are other reasons to be thankful about it on the practical side of things (i.e., this is how I make my money, and I need money, because we live in a capitalist society, and also, I do ill-advised things like buy six-necked guitars), but mostly, I was just happy that after a year of grinding gears, creatively, 2021 saw me back on track in a big way. Related:

I’m thankful I didn’t release a novel this year. Fun fact: the novel I was writing in 2020 was supposed to be out this last October, and Kaiju was written quickly enough that Tor could have, in fact, slotted it into that release date. Instead, Tor looked at the publishing landscape of 2021 and said to itself yeeeeeeeah, let’s not, and bumped Kaiju into 2022 instead. Which was good! We’ve had more time to plot and plan for the release, and also, hey, you know that “supply chain” issue this year? It’s been particularly bad for publishing, and October was especially a not good month on that score. We dodged an actual bullet on that one, and didn’t make life worse for the authors who did have books out this October by fighting them for, like, paper. Also, hopefully by March we may be able to do in-store events and have a live-action book tour and all of that good stuff.

To be clear, in a perfect world I would have had a novel out in 2021, consistent with the plan to have a novel out every year to keep readers happy. But, well [motions to the imperfect world]. Given everything, waiting made sense. And Kaiju, I think, will be worth the wait for most of you.

I’m thankful for the COVID vaccines. In both the case of the initial set of vaccines and then with the booster, I signed up to get them as early as humanly possible because, I don’t know if you know this, but COVID-19 is a novel virus that is highly transmissible, kills a lot of people it infects — 775,000 in the US to date — and leaves lots of the people who survive the infection with long-term debilitations. It’s bad! And if you get the vaccines, not only does your chance of initial infection go down by a significant multiple, if you do get it, the chance of requiring hospitalization for it goes down by an even more significant multiple and the chances of dying from it go down by an even more significant multiple still. This is just basic math. I got vaccinated and boosted. So did my family.

I’m deeply thankful my family is now highly unlikely to die or be significantly debilitated from this now easily-preventable viral infection that is still killing thousands each week, those deaths now almost exclusively concentrated among people who will not take a safe and effective vaccine because people who should have known better made avoiding a horrible fucking disease and looking out for others by not being an active vector of infection a political litmus test, and counted on their supporters’ ignorance and tribal inclinations to weaponize those positions. “Be willing to get sick and possibly die to own the libs” is no way to go through life, and as it happens, at least some of those who chose that route won’t get through it.

Anyway, get vaccinated if you can, y’all. I’m thankful I did. You’ll be thankful you did, too.

I’m thankful we got a dog. Because Charlie’s cute, and a little bit of canine chaos in the house is fun. Well, mostly. She can be exasperating sometimes too, but honestly, that can be said about any of us, can it not. I do continue to be thankful for my cats, too, just to be clear. It’s not a contest. Don’t make it a contest! We love all our pets.

I’m thankful I got to see friends and go out into the world again this year. From March 2020 to June 2021, I went no further than about 25 miles from my house and saw almost no one in person who wasn’t family or an immediate neighbor. It wasn’t horrible, but even for an introvert like me, it got to be a little much. But then we got vaccinated! And friends got vaccinated! And the chance we would accidentally kill or debilitate our pals by giving them a hug went down considerably! Also, events started to happen again, because sensible “mask and vaxx” policies became a thing. And now I have a real world social life and an appearance schedule again. I appreciate it and don’t take it for granted. It’s nice to actually see friends, you know?

I’m thankful for the usual things too. A family that I love, who is mostly happy and mostly healthy. A job I like and a house that’s nice to live in. That I am doing well enough that I can buy silly guitars. That I just get to live and not worry about my own circumstances most days. All of these things are good, and I don’t want to elide them to note the stuff I have above. So, here they are.

These are (some of) the things I’m thankful for, here in 2021, coming into Thanksgiving and the holiday season. I hope that there are things you feel thankful this year as well.

— JS

The Big Idea: Patricia A. Jackson

Cover to Forging a Nightmare.

Authors often put a little bit of themselves into their characters. And Patricia A. Jackson is not different in her novel Forging a Nightmare. But what parts and into which character and why… therein, folks, is the Big Idea.


As a Black woman I carry my own unique baggage. Even as I write this essay, I’m bristling—worried about readers’ reactions to this post. I’m usually braced for the worst in people, all while trying to keep that stiff upper lip and smile. Well, my face hurts.

Black people (and Black characters) are expected to react to situations the way White people do. Newsflash: we don’t! Reacting often gets us arrested, beaten, or killed. And when we don’t react, we’re not human enough, not educated enough, or worse, we’re hiding something.

Being Black in the United States of America is akin to living in a perpetual state of PTSD. A lack of representation in film, literature, and other media only exacerbates my feelings of self-loathing, restlessness, blame, and isolation. My experiences watching TV and reading books is that the perspective of Black people has been callously denied or suppressed. When institutions double down on this exclusion, it becomes a subtle, but pervasive kind of racism.

Still here, dear reader? Good, because I need to tell you I don’t want to be part of a master race. I don’t want to be superior. I just want to be included.

My father was born in 1934 in Alabama. The ghosts he saw in his yard were real. Evil men in white sheets and white hoods with evil agendas who burned crosses. Tattooed by the trauma of the Ku Klux Klan and Jim Crow, he tried to escape by joining the military and fell victim to another form of institutional racism. He became angry, bitter, but unbowed, and when I came into the world… fiercely protective.

For our survival, we lived in enemy territory: all-White neighborhoods. I went to a private, mostly White school and rode show horses in a sport where very few people looked like me. Though it was never his intention, my father could not have White-washed me anymore than the society in which we lived. As a result, I never learned to be comfortable in my skin.

I wrote my first novel when I was eight. My early protagonists came to me blond-haired and blue-eyed with flawless white skin. That is what I had been taught to believe was beautiful. If there was a person of color, I glossed over the description. My father had taught me it was never a good idea to call attention to myself—to my Blackness. It wasn’t safe.

“And lo, a black horse…”

Enter a Nightmare. Anaba Raines was the first character that came to me as I pondered writing Forging a Nightmare. She was unapologetically Black and unabashedly fierce. I wear my hair in dreadlocks because of her. An unrelenting, badass Marine, she was a spirited warrior, who spoke her mind (even to me) and used her fists for punctuation. I had difficulty finding a ‘leading man’ strong enough to withstand her brutal candor.

Black women get a bad rap. We’re too loud, too opinionated, too outspoken. But no one talks about how fiercely we love, how unconditionally we commit, how loyally we cling to traditions of family. The Marine Corps didn’t teach Anaba how to be faithful. It was written into her genes from generations of stoic matriarchs who stood their ground in the Antebellum South, and well after its fall, so that their progeny would thrive.

But Forging a Nightmare was not Anaba’s story to tell. A fact that pissed her off. She was already comfortable in her skin. Her co-star, the main protagonist, Michael Childs was… not. If characters are born from a sliver of their creator’s essence, Michael was me, masquerading as something he was not meant to be. White. So, I fed him (and that part of myself) to the fury of a Nightmare, and Anaba took us to Hell and back again. Literally.

Michael Childs is a reflection of my awkward struggle to relate to a world that was unaccepting of me, even hostile at times. As if my Blackness was a tragic flaw. The immortal James Baldwin said, “You have to decide who you are and force the world to deal with you, not with its idea of you.” Michael’s journey to accept himself became my quest to embrace my identity and project that image into the world, regardless of who liked or disliked it.

Reeling in my Black characters from the supporting ensemble, I set them center stage in the main roles, not as token heroes. I cast them as archangels, movers and shakers, making it evident that the diversity we deny on earth exists among the divine. I was forced to be comfortable in their skins, accepting of their Blackness. To define their purpose, I had to redefine who I was and how the world perceived me.

This journey has been a perilous one. I have stumbled, fallen, cried, and scratched desperately to crawl back under a rock, but Anaba would not let me. Through her and Michael, I learned to love myself and to be unrepentantly comfortable in my skin. The specters of a regrettable era in history and the ghost of this new one seek to psychologically lynch me to keep me silent. They will fail. Thanks to the antics of one wily, spirited Nightmare—Anaba. Thanks, gunny! For everything.

Forging a Nightmare: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

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

Mermaids Monthly: Back For Year Two

Around this time last year I gave a little space to let my pal Meg Frank talk about the Kickstarter for Mermaids Monthly. This year, I’m doing the same, but with new editors and spokespeople: Miyuki Jane Pinckard and Noelle Singh. Here they are to explain why year two of Mermaids Monthly is worth your Kickstarter love.

Last year, the unstoppable powerhouses Meg Frank and Julia Rios launched Mermaids Monthly and built it into a premier, pro magazine of the mermaid-themed fiction, poetry, art, and comics. It was all made possible by fans, including many of you! This fall, they decided to hand off the project to me, Jane, and my co-publisher Noelle Singh. We couldn’t be more excited to take the helm.

So! Today we launch the Kickstarter campaign to fund Mermaids Monthly Year Two. It’s still mermaids. Only, more international. This year we’re focusing on sourcing at least 50% of each issue from creators outside the United States. We want to explore a world of mermaid lore from around the world, to the moon and back. We’re also building a community and events around Mermaids Monthly for fans to enjoy throughout the year: a space to share mermaids stories and art on a Discord server, poetry readings, watch parties, and Q&A sessions with our creators.

We really love how much Mermaids Monthly Year One supports queer, BIPOC, and disable writers, and we’re committed to keeping that a core part of our ethos, while exploring mermaid stories from around the world. We’ve solicited some wonderful art and words for the January issue, and the minute we hit our minimum funding goal, we’re excited to open general submissions to all creators.

We would love it if you would support us either by pledging to our Kickstarter or by helping to spread the word!

Let’s get to the fun stuff, the rewards!

  • For the first 48 hours of the campaign, we’re offering an Early Bird special, a full digital subscription to all twelve issues of Mermaids Monthly for the year, at $25.
  • At 400 backers, we’re going to host a watch party of Ponyo by Studio Ghibli! 
  • We’re thrilled to have a range of gorgeous and cute rewards for a range of budgets: pins, stickers, stunning sea-themed jewelry, a custom Spotify playlist, and more.
  • While physical rewards won’t ship until next year (and sorry in advance for any shipping delays!), we’re giving out digital gift cards for physical items that you can include if you’re planning on giving any of these rewards to someone.
  • Speaking of gifts, digital subscriptions make awesome gifts for the mermaid fan in your life! We have a special “Tails for Twins” pack that includes two of everything–for you and a friend, with a digital gift card you can send to your giftee.

Thanks for reading. We’re super excited to continue the Mermaids Monthly voyage. If you’d like, please check out our Kickstarter campaign, follow us on Twitter @MermaidsMonthly, or on Facebook at

Miyuki Jane Pinckard is a writer, game designer, educator, and the co-publisher of Mermaids Monthly. Her fiction can be found in Strange Horizons, Uncanny Magazine, Flash Fiction Online, and other venues. She likes wine and mystery novels and karaoke.

Noelle Singh is a multimedia artist and baking enthusiast, with a love of nature, specifically the ocean. She earned an art degree and double minor in environmental science and media, society & the arts. She got her SCUBA certification while studying coral reef biology and ecology abroad. She enjoys curling up in her grotto with her catfish and a good book.

My Appearance Schedule Through The Kaiju Preservation Society’s Release Date

Hey, remember back when people used to go to science fiction conventions and hang out, and go to panels and get autographs and do all those things? Well, I do! And it turns out I’ll be doing that again, actually sooner than later. Attending DragonCon over Labor Day weekend convinced me it was possible to make conventions work so long as the conventions had and followed appropriate “mask and vaxx” policies, and also, I just got my vaccine booster shot so my immunological response to the COVID virus is topped up (I also recently got my flu shot, too, because flu sucks). So I went ahead and booked a series of conventions and events leading up to the release of The Kaiju Preservation Society in March. What are they? I’m glad you asked!

December 3-5: Emerald City Comic Con. I have a few panels and signings — here is the exact schedule. We may also have a few ARCs of Kaiju to give away, but we’re still working on that so don’t quote me as confirming that. It’s been several years since I’ve attended ECCC so I’m looking forward to seeing folks in the Seattle area again.

December 15 – 19: Discon III, the 79th World Science Fiction Convention — This year marks the very first time Worldcon has happened in December (you can thank COVID, of course), and I’ll be there because, among other things, my Interdependency series of books is nominated for a Hugo. Will it win? I have no idea! At this point my feeling is “Cool if I win, cool if I don’t,” because winning Hugos is fun and all, but all the other finalists for Best Series are pretty great, so if one of them wins, that’ll be just fine. Also, as I remind people, if I win, I’ll be “Hugo winner John Scalzi,” and if I don’t win, I’ll be “Hugo winner John Scalzi,” so. I will say that if I do win, the chances are very high I will accept wearing a Christmas elf suit, so if you want to see that, you should probably hope people voted for me (the Hugo voting is now closed). I’ll be on a few panels and doing some autographing and DJing a dance.

January 21 – 23, 2022: Rising Confusion — this Detroit-area event is my “home” convention and I’ve attended in person every year since 2005, not counting this year when they didn’t have it because, you know, plague and all. At this very moment I have not been scheduled for any programming (and as a general rule I keep my programming schedule pretty light for this one), but there’s a pretty good chance I’ll be doing some sort of thing whilst I am there other than just sitting in the bar. Stay tuned.

February 3 -6, 2022: Capricon 42 — This is in downtown Chicago, one of my favorite cities in the world. Rumor has it I may be DJing a dance, and who knows, I might do some other stuff, too. More as we go along.

March 5 – 12, 2022: JoCo Cruise — There has been no official announcement at this moment regarding performers, etc, and I’m not going to get ahead of those announcements in any way. But I can confirm that I will be on the boat, if for no other reason than I enjoy nerdery on the high seas, and I miss seeing friends there.

The Kaiju Preservation Society launches on March 15, 2022, and Tor’s PR folks are working on if/how/where promotional events will happen after that — well, “if” is already a foregone conclusion; we’re totally going to have events. It’s the “how” and “when” they’re working on.

Basically, the next few months look… almost pre-COVID in terms of me being busy with events! Which I am not going to complain about today. I like the idea that I, and we, are starting to go back into the world.

That said, you’ll notice (if you visit the sites of all of these conventions), that they all have pretty rigorous masking and vaxxing/testing policies, and indeed nearly all events in the science fiction/nerd world at this point have these policies. So if you want to go to conventions and nerd events: Go get that shot and mask up, okay? It would be lovely to see you out in the world.

— JS


The CDC and the USDA opened up COVID booster shots to everyone over the age of 18 yesterday, so guess what I did this morning? If you guessed “thought deeply about your mortality and your place in the universe,” then yes, in an rather abstract sense, I suppose I might have, but more specifically, I got a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine to ensure I have maximum coverage through the holiday season and beyond. Krissy went with me as well; it was like a morning date, to a CVS, to be jabbed with needles. And after I was done I bought myself a bag of gummi candies, because I was a very brave boy this morning getting a shot and all, and I deserved candy.

I got the booster shot because it was recommended by medical experts, and I have this thing where I actually do think it’s useful to listen to the experts about vaccines, and not, say, podcast hosts or virulently racist and/or performatively ignorant politicians. Beyond this, the holidays are coming up and most of us are about to spend more time indoors with more people, so a boost to one’s immune response makes sense to get right about now. Also, and this is specific to me, I live in a county where, still, less than 35% of the population is fully vaccinated. This number is unlikely to go much higher because this is a county that votes for and listens to virulently racist and/or performatively ignorant politicians, and unfortunately goes all in for the whole ecosystem of nonsense that comes along with that. Given these facts, it made sense to get an extra added layer of immunological protection once it became available.

I should be clear I didn’t worry too much about being significantly incapacitated by the COVID virus before this booster shot. I was already vaccinated and I don’t have any real comorbidities that would have complicated matters. I have been out in the world fairly significantly in this second half of the year, participating in major conventions and events. I regularly go into town for errands and shopping. It’s been fine. That said, I’m also well aware that “I’m pretty sure I have a good immune system” and “so far, so good,” are things people who are about to be unpleasantly surprised say. Plus there’s the fact that, at 52 years of age, regardless of my general physical health, I need to have a healthy (heh) respect for the truth that my body is, alas, less robust than it used to be. Getting a booster shot took a hour out of my day, during which I did errands I needed to do anyway. And now I am even better protected against a virus which is still killing people, and giving others who survive it substantial long-term health issues. There really was no downside. And it was free!

I regret that COVID happened at all, and that it first hit when we had a real chunderheaded dingus as president, who set the stage to politicize an effective treatment to end a pandemic. I also regret we live in a world where a substantial number of people seem to truly believe that there are microchips in a vaccine, and that a treatment designed to kill parasites in livestock will do anything against a virus. But it did, he did and we do, respectively, and now we just have to deal with it. The best way to deal with it, on an individual level, at least, is to get vaccinated if you can and have not done so already (or complete your vaccination if you’ve started), and to get a booster if you’re over 18 and it’s been six months since your second shot. It’ll make a difference for you, for the people around you, and hopefully in time for the nation and world. And then you’ll also be less likely to spend some portion of the holidays sick as hell, which is a not insignificant thing, either.

Go get that booster, folks. You’ll be happy you did.

— JS

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