Have Some Photos!

Good evening, everyone! Today I’ve been really busy with schoolwork and running errands, and I realized I should probably post something before it gets to be too late in the day, since not everyone is as much of a night owl as I tend to be.

For today’s post, I thought I’d share with you guys some of my photography! If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you’ve probably already seen a few of these, but if you don’t, or you just happened to miss them, here is a few of my favorites!

Stairs to nowhere.

A post shared by Athena Scalzi ⭐ (@ascalzi98) on

Am I gonna post two flower pictures in one day? You bet I am.

A post shared by Athena Scalzi ⭐ (@ascalzi98) on

An oil spill of rainbows.

A post shared by Athena Scalzi ⭐ (@ascalzi98) on

Spring is so pretty I can’t get over it 🌸

A post shared by Athena Scalzi ⭐ (@ascalzi98) on

I mostly like to take pictures of flowers and scenery, but I really like cloud and sunrise/sunset photos, too. Hopefully this summer I’ll use some of my free time to take more pictures of nature-y things!

If you have any awesome pictures of yours you’d like to show me, put them in the comments and I’ll check them out. Have a great day!

Music Time!

Hello, everyone! Today I’d like to introduce you to some songs I really enjoy, by an artist named Sam Tinnesz. I have composed a little playlist of my five personal favorite songs of his. His music is dark, intense, ominous, melodic, honestly almost hypnotizing, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

The first song I ever heard by him was “Play With Fire”. It is also my favorite of his. Figured we should start off strong! This is the only song of his I have heard that has a female voice in it alongside his. I think the main reason it is my favorite is because it was the first one I heard, and the only one of his I listened to for a good while before I decided to give his other stuff a try. “Play With Fire” has a killer rhythm, a powerful chorus, a dark edge to it, and great lyrics.

If you’re wondering how I found this song, I got it from this amazing Black Butler (my favorite anime) edit:

The second song I have chosen is called “Heart of the Darkness”. This one is much calmer, more melodic sounding, and not as intense. One downside to it is that it is pretty repetitive, but if you’re looking for a song that is easy to learn the lyrics to, that probably won’t bother you. I think this particular song really showcases his voice more so than some of the others, though he doesn’t have a crazy range to begin with, I still find it pleasant.

For the third song, I’ve chosen one that is a little more similar to “Play With Fire”, as it is more upbeat than “Heart of the Darkness”. It is called “Legends Are Made”, and I really like the lyrics in this one. I can see this one being played in the background of a movie during a pre-battle scene.

For the fourth song, I chose “Bloody City”. If you liked the dark edge in “Play With Fire”, you will love how ominous and creepy this one is. The occasional spooky sound in the background mixed with the rhythmic music is seriously awesome and somewhat chilling. The lyrics don’t flow amazingly well, which is why this is number four on the list.

Okay, last one! For the fifth and final piece, I chose something that sounds completely different from the other four. The tone of this one is so much softer, slower, and has almost none of the same elements as the previous four. This one is called “Hold On For Your Life”. I find this one to be somewhat depressing sounding, it honestly made me tear up a little bit because I imagined it being put to a heartfelt death scene in a movie. The main instrument in “Hold On For Your Life” is a piano, which differs greatly from most of his other songs. It is very beautiful and emotion-inducing, in my opinion, but also has that same issue of being slightly too repetitive.

So, there you have it! Those are my top five picks from Sam Tinnesz. If you enjoy any of these or find other songs by him you like, leave a comment! Hope you enjoyed listening to these and also hope you have a great day!

View From a Hotel Window, 5/23/18: Phoenix

There is a parking lot below the building at the front, but I decided not to feature it in the photo. Hey! Not every “view from a hotel window” photo has to have a parking lot.

Reminder to everyone here in the Phoenix area that tonight at 7 I will be at the Poisoned Pen, along with many many other authors, signing books, and tomorrow through Sunday I’ll be at Phoenix Comic Fest, doing panels, signing books and generally hanging about. Come see me at one or the other.

Scalzi at Phoenix Comic Fest This Weekend

As a reminder, starting today(!) I will be in the lovely and very hot town of Phoenix for Phoenix Comic Fest (previously known as Phoenix Comic Con), to sign books, be on panels and do a whole lot of schmoozing. And you(!) can be a part of that, if you happen to be in or around Phoenix this weekend.

What’s my schedule?

Wednesday (today):

  • 2018 Elevengeddon: A Multi-Author Sci-Fi Event
    7:00pm, Poisoned Pen Bookstore
    Event & Signing
    Authors: Myke Cole (Tor.com Publishing), Emily Devenport, Cory Doctorow, K Arsenault Rivera, John Scalzi, V.E. Schwab, Charles Soule, Sam Sykes

Thursday:

  • Out in the Field – Bizarre Things I Learned While Researching My Boo​k & Post-Panel Signing
    1:30pm-2:30pm, North 126AB
    ​Panelists: Aaron Mahnke, K Arsenault Rivera, John Scalzi, V.E. Schwab
  • Prophets of Sci-Fi
    3:00pm-4:00pm, North 125AB
    Panelists: Cory Doctorow, John Scalzi, Emily Devenport, Sylvain Neuvel
  • Tor Author Group Signing
    4:30pm-5:30pm, Changing Hands Author Signing Area
    All attending Tor Authors

Friday:

  • Tor Presents: Two Truths and A Lie – Authors Edition
    10:30am-11:30am, North 122ABC
    Panelists: Cory Doctorow, Emily Devenport, K Arsenault Rivera, John Scalzi
    Moderator: Myke Cole (Tor.com Publishing)
  • Marching Orders – Military in Sci-Fi and Fantasy Stories & Post-Panel Signing
    1:30pm-2:30pm, North 126C
    Panelists: John Scalzi, Melinda Snodgrass, Sylvain Neuvel, Mark Gardner, Kevin Ikenberry

Saturday:

  • Cory Doctorow & John Scalzi in Conversation about Politics in Sci-Fi and Fantasy & Post-Panel Signing
    12:00pm-1:00pm, North 124AB
    Panelists: Cory Doctorow and John Scalzi
  • Tor Presents #FearlessWomen & Post-Panel Signing
    1:30pm-2:30pm, North 125AB
    Panelists: V.E. Schwab, K Arsenault Rivera, Emily Devenport, John Scalzi

Sunday:

  • John Scalzi Solo Panel & Post-Panel Signing
    1:30pm-2:30pm, North 126AB

(All this information taken from Tor.com’s PCF schedule, which also features the schedule of other Tor-related authors, like VE Schwab, Cory Doctorow and Myke Cole among others.)

I’ll note that on Sunday, at my solo panel, I’ll likely be reading new material that I’ve not read anywhere else yet, so if that’s a thing you want to hear, get yourself there.

See you in Phoenix! Uh, unless I don’t, in which case have a good rest of your week anyway, okay?

Watermelon Salsa!

Hey guys! To kick off day two of writing on Whatever, I have decided to post a recipe. There were a surprising number of people in the comments of yesterday’s post that said they were looking forward to seeing what I make in the kitchen, and I was planning to make something today anyways, so I figured I might as well post it!

This past winter was, like, the longest winter I’ve ever lived through. I forgot for a second what in-season fruit tasted like. But now that summer is finally here, I bought a watermelon! I have never bought one before now, so that was an enthralling experience.

There a ton of recipes online for watermelon salsa, and while they are all unique in their own ways, they are all basically composed of the same few ingredients, which is watermelon, cucumber, red onion, and mango. Using my collective knowledge of these recipes, I just went for it and threw it together in a bowl.

Here’s what I used:

3 cups watermelon, diced

1 cucumber, peeled and diced

1/3 of a regular sized sweet red onion, diced

Juice of one lime

1 tbsp of sugar

Sprinkle of garlic salt (optional)

A very inexact amount of cayenne pepper (also optional)

Salt and pepper

So yeah, just throw all that together in a bowl and mix! Originally, I also had a mango I was going to use, but I had never bought a mango before today and apparently the one I bought was very very not ripe. So instead I added a little bit of mango flavored white balsamic vinegar, but I really wish there were actual chunks of mango in this bad boy. I think the sweetness of the mango would’ve been a great addition, as well as added some awesome color.

As for the cayenne pepper, just add as much as you want! Originally, I wasn’t even going to put any in because I’m a weakling in the ways of spice, but it seems like most other people in this household likes a kick to their food, so I just sprinkled a good amount in and hoped I wouldn’t die later.

Okay, so, about cost. From the store, I bought a watermelon, a mango, two limes (you only need one, though), a red onion, and a cucumber. I already had the garlic salt and cayenne pepper at home. All together, the produce cost $8.86 (this is including the mango I ended up not using). The most expensive thing was the watermelon, which was five bucks for a whole seedless one. Cost is very important to me. Food prices add up quickly, especially in recipes where you have none of the ingredients at home and have to go out and buy literally everything on the list.

If you end up making this, send me a picture on Twitter (@ascalzi98)! I would love to see if y’all end up adding anything, like the mango, or whatever else you think would be good in it! Hope you enjoy this summery and fresh salsa!

A Quick Note About Whatever, Your Data and GDPR

I’ve had a couple of people ask me how the European Union’s new General Data Protection Regulation law (which goes into effect on Friday) affects this site and how I run it, so, let me talk about that very briefly.

One, on a personal level, aside from asking for an email address in order to leave comments here, I personally am not (and never have) collecting any information about anyone, other in the very general sense of reading and comprehending whatever bits of personal information people leave in their comments. That said, I don’t do anything commercial with any of that — I don’t mine my comment threads for personal data, and certainly don’t comb through them for sales, advertising or other commercial purposes. It’s not that kind of site, and I’m really not that interested. Doing any of that requires work and effort that I have no desire to do. All I want to do here is write and post pictures. Aside from occasionally letting you know when I have a new book out, I have no interest in monetizing the site, nor anyone who visits it, nor any of the data they leave behind. Hell, I don’t even have sales affiliate links on Big Idea posts.

Two, while I personally don’t retain any personal information about you, WordPress, who hosts this blog via its VIP service, does (for example, if you do comment here, I’m pretty sure WordPress leaves a cookie in your browser so you don’t have to enter your personal information each time you decide to comment). WordPress tells me via its VIP service blog that it is currently reworking its infrastructure so that its services comply with the GDPR; inasmuch as WordPress’ VIP service constitutes the technological infrastructure of this site, I expect that how it handles your data, cookies, etc will now conform to EU law. Which is nice! Less work for me. Nevertheless I’ll be doublechecking to see if there’s anything else I need to be doing personally. I’m pretty sure there’s not, but it doesn’t hurt to be sure.

(For those of you asking why I’m even concerned about this at all, since I and the site are in the US, the short answer is that, as I understand it, the law covers EU citizens, and on any given day roughly 20% of the traffic here is from the EU. Likewise I’m pretty sure WordPress has users and offices in the EU.)

The short(er) version of this is that I don’t expect anything obvious will change here in terms of how either you or I use the site, and what things will change will be handled mostly in the background by WordPress itself, and generally speaking Whatever (and I) will continue not using any information you do provide here for any commercial purpose.

Basically, we’ll just keep on doing what we’re already doing here. If any of that changes in any significant way, I will let you know.

New Books and ARCs, 5/21/18

Here you go, folks: Another very fine stack of new books and ARCs that have arrived at the Scalzi Compound. What here is catching your eye? Tell us in the comments!

Hello, Whatever World!

Howdy, y’all. Today is my first day as my dad’s intern, and this is my first Whatever post! My dad is off writing some silly book or something along those lines, and because he is busy he tends to neglect this website a little bit, so I am here to ensure that posts are posted and readers are reading (and, of course, enjoying).

If you’d like to know a little about me, in case you have never seen anything on here regarding me, my name is Athena Scalzi. I am nineteen years old, an only child, a Capricorn, left-handed, and I love reading, writing, photography, baking/cooking, and looking at the stars. My favorite color is purple, my favorite animal is a tiger or a snow leopard (they’re both equally adorable and fluffy and could murder you), and my favorite movie is The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Generally I think I will be posting movie reviews, anime reviews, book reviews, things like that, along with some of my photography and my daily adventures in this oh so exciting life. I’m sure I’ll also post some pictures or recipes every once in a while of things I whip up in the kitchen. In regards to this, there has been some speculation as to whether or not I am as monstrous as my father when it comes to burritos, and I can finally assure you all, I am no heathen. I am a Burrito-Purist and my father’s inventions horrify and appall me.

Overall, I am very excited to be here and look forward to writing for this blog. I sincerely hope you all enjoy what I have to offer and that I give thoughtful contributions to this site, or “whatever”!

The Big Idea: Cat Rambo

Where to start the second book in a series? If your answer is “after the first book, duh,” allow Cat Rambo to offer another option to you, which she employs in her novel Hearts of Tabat.

CAT RAMBO:

My second novel is out as of May 20, and it’s a satisfying feeling. At the same time, I’m a little nervous about it, because it’s not a standard sequel, but rather takes the events of book one, Beasts of Tabat, and provides some different angles on it, this time seeing them through the eyes of a new set of viewpoints, including the best friend and former lover of one of Beasts’ protagonists and the two men vying for her attention.

Hearts of Tabat follows up on Beasts of Tabat not by starting where the first book ends, but considerably before that with one of the scenes from Beasts revisited. The characters from Beasts are there, particularly charismatic gladiator Bella Kanto, but they are seen through the eyes of a set of protagonists. It does end in time after Beasts, and those wondering what happened to Bella at the end of Beasts will find out.

Because of this, there’s a weird and somewhat unanticipated structure, where either book will work equally well to bring the reader in. The next one, Exiles of Tabat, won’t share this trait – it’s placed solidly after the end of Hearts of Tabat, and the final Gods of Tabat definitively after Exiles in its own turn.

I’ve always loved books that are oddly shaped in one way or another, which read one way backward and another frontward, or where any chapter can serve as the beginning, but I didn’t set out to create an oddly shaped series. I worry sometime that I’ve failed to pull it off, but at the same time I know Hearts is a better book than the first one, and Exiles will be even better yet.

And writing this way has let me create an even richer, deeper nook. By now I’ve written three and a half books and two dozen stories and novelettes set in this world. I know it well, but when I go wandering it in that hazy state of slumber that one hopes will carry you off to sleep, I always find new things, new little details, but all of them things that grow out of the shape of the world, caused by the existence of the three moons or the way the terraced city steps down to the water.

By the time I’m done with Gods, though (and I’m hoping the the next books come much quicker once my stint in the SFWA Presidency is over in mid-2019) I’ll be ready to move away from Tabat, for a little while, at least. I’ve been working on a YA space opera at the same time and I want to finish that up, along with a modern horror novel, tentatively entitled Queen of the Fireflies. So many projects and so little time — and who know what shape they will end up being?

—-

Hearts of Tabat: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Kobo|Smashwords

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

Easing Back Into the World

Here are some lovely photos I took whilst I was away from the world. Enjoy!

Hope you had a good week.

The Big Idea: Nicola Griffith

Ever have that story that decides that now is the time it is going to be told, and you get to be the lucky person to tell it? Nicola Griffith does, and now her novel So Lucky is out in the world. Here she is to explain how the one led to the other.

NICOLA GRIFFITH:

I usually know years in advance what book I’m going to write next. But sometimes when you’re far away and thinking of something else a book will leap out from behind the sofa and shriek, SURPRISE! Then look hurt when you’re beating it about the head and yelling, Don’t. Ever. Do. That. Again!

That’s what happened with So Lucky.

In mid-2016 I was happily working on Menewood, the sequel to Hild, when I got accepted as a doctoral candidate. It was an amazing opportunity so I went for it. I had to set aside Menewood because though I’m guessing some people could write a huge book set in the 7th century and a PhD at the same time, I’m not one of them. But I worked fast and by mid-December I had a draft of my thesis. I sent it to my supervisor, who would get back to me in January.

So now I had three weeks with no pressing project and no one nagging me for stuff. I know! I thought. (Be wary, very wary of that phrase…) I’ll write that magic realist story… It was a story I’d been thinking about for 20 years—and had tried to write once but stuck in a drawer because I wasn’t happy with it. (I didn’t know why at the time but it turns out I’d committed the cardinal sin of writing a disabled character as a narrative prosthesis. And, yes, this inconvenient knowledge is the kind of thing a PhD is good for.) But it had never stopped muttering to itself on the porch, and now it was hammering at the door…

…Or maybe I’m just telling myself a story; writers do that. You should probably never believe anything we say about why and how we write what we do. We don’t really know—but we’re really good at coming up with an explanation after the fact. So it could be that the whole thing was just nested avoidance behaviour. Maybe the PhD was a way to stop thinking about Menewood, and maybe So Lucky was a way to stop thinking about the PhD.

Anyway, I began. It came gushing, roaring out, a torrent of rage, joy, horror, and homecoming. I had a first draft in three weeks. And it turned out unlike anything I’ve ever written before.

The first word of So Lucky is It, and It is a monster. The book’s short but it’s stuffed with monsters, human and otherwise. None of those monsters is metaphorical.

So Lucky is set in present-day Atlanta. It’s narrated by a woman, Mara, who is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and realises she needs a community—other disabled people—that doesn’t exist yet. It’s about how she finds her people and then begins to discover and help shape a new culture.

“I need it, so I’ll have to build it” is what the SFF community has been doing for decades. It’s where the queer community began in the 60s, and the feminist community in the 70s. Both accelerated in the 80s. The HIV+ community did it in the 80s and 90s. The disabled community are doing right now.

Having no established community to lean on in times of need is terrible; it is alienating, Othering, and enraging. But finally finding your people and beginning to create a life, a history, a path, plan, and sense of purpose together? That is blazing joy. So few people get to be part of the building blocks of a culture. So many of us are born into a sense of belonging and history, and never get to really find out our own perspective on the world. We might change part of the way through our lives, but, generally speaking, any path we may follow is already well-trodden, ready-made and lined with relevant music, books, films, fashions, and documentary history.

But when you get to build the art and culture that doesn’t already exist, the art you create is fuelled by the emotional journey: the alienation and the homecoming, the fear and excitement, the rage and joy. That’s how I wanted Mara, and the reader, to feel. I want So Lucky to be terrifying, bewildering, yet rich with the delight of discovery, of making, of connection; the warmth of belonging and building your own hearth—but with a thread of dissonance running beneath, the sense that the world you’re conjuring is fragile, and that monsters lurk just outside the light.

So Lucky is raw, a spear-thrust of a book, but also, I hope, funny. At least I read the audiobook that at way. It’s fiction about a woman who comes to see clearly the bullshit of the uber-story, the ableist lies we’ve all been fed from birth. She learns to break free from the constraints of the old story so she can build her own. It’s about building community. Because community is hope, community is life. And community is how you keep the monsters at bay.

—-

So Lucky: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s 

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

Taking the Week Off From the World

Hey there, folks — Just a quick note to say that with the exception of a Big Idea post tomorrow, I’m going to be away from Whatever (and Twitter! and Facebook! and all of social media!) for a week. Why?

a) I’m getting close to final deadline on The Consuming Fire, so I need to mostly focus on that;

b) Work on another as-yet-unrevealed project which also needs my attention;

c) With respect to Whatever, doing a little prep ahead of bringing in Athena as the summer intern, and also to make a few other small changes around here.

Related to above, I’ll also be talking a news break for a week (and possibly through the rest of May) in order to keep my focus on things directly in front of me. For those of you not up on what a “news break” means, it means that I’ll not be checking in on CNN, NYTimes, Washington Post, etc for the duration of the break. My perceptual world will be largely limited to the Scalzi Compound, family and pets. So if you’re hoping for thoughts on whatever damn fool thing the Trump administration is doing, or indeed anything else happening in the world, you’ll have to get them from someone else who isn’t me. This shouldn’t be too difficult for most of you. I mean, I certainly hope I’m not your main source of news.

If for some reason you need to reach me, email will work, but unless you are a close friend and/or business associate with whom I am currently engaged in active business, you should probably expect a delay in response, a very brief response, or both. If you try to reach me on social media, I won’t be there, so you’ll basically be shouting into the void. Sorry.

See you all in a week or so.

Happy Mother’s Day

Hope it’s a lovely one. It is here.

Reader Request Week 2018 #10: Short Bits

And now, to wrap up Reader Request Week 2018, short takes on some of the questions I didn’t otherwise get to:

Laura: A topic I’ve been pondering is to what extent the proliferation of entertainment & informational choices — Internet, cable TV, smart phones — is an overall boon or blessing to society. Were we actually better off when we had three or four TV channels, radio & vinyl for our music, paper maps for car trips, and shelves of encyclopedias to use for tracking down facts for our school papers?

Well, I wasn’t better off — having access to a vast ocean of information makes my life and job a lot easier. The problem as I see it is that we’re at an intermediary moment where a vast part of the population (roughly early Gen-X and older) is struggling with the consequences of the technology and we’re waiting for the people who are entirely comfortable with the new baseline of technology — and its consequences — to grow into power. Anecdotally I note that people my daughter’s age seem to handle the online world and the rhetoric that has arisen out of it far better than their elders (it’s one reason why the Parkland teens are running circles around the NRA, much to the latter’s furious confusion). So no, it wasn’t better, just different, and some people are understandably better suited to that previous time.

Ron Bielke: What is your position on guns? Would you support a total ban on guns in this country? Is there even a whisper of a chance I might see such in my lifetime?

I prefer my bow, personally. You will not see a total ban on guns in this country without changing the Constitution of the United States. For the record, I don’t think we need to amend the Constitution to have sensible laws regarding firearms in this country.

Andy: As a British (English, specifically) fan of your fiction and blog (especially US politics) writing: what does Brexit look like from where/who you are?

It looks like what the US looks like right now: What happens when stupid and cruel and racist takes over the national discourse. I think both the US and the UK will get out of their current stupid and cruel and racist moments and correct their courses, albeit somewhat the worse for wear, and it will take longer than anyone sensible would like.

Matt Mikalatos: Realizing that there are many worse things, but that doesn’t mean your own situation doesn’t have down sides: What are some of the difficulties of being (comparatively) well off and well known?

At this point, very few, for which I am appropriately grateful. At this point, the most “difficult” thing I have going on is somewhat existential, which is that as a more-or-less “franchise” writer for Tor (and somewhat less for Audible, who publishes my audiobooks), I do have responsibilities to hit publishing marks and maintain output quality and consistency levels that other writers don’t have, because I have a lot of people (and a publishing company) expecting specific things from me. It’s a great problem to have, to be clear, but on the other hand it’s not as easy to hit all those marks as I hopefully make it look to people on the outside.

Dann665: The last few years have been pretty…ummm….testy. Do you see a path towards rapprochement? Not necessarily a persuasion that any one perspective is better than the others, but towards being able to live with one another civilly?

Sure; the pendulum swings, always. We’ve been in less civil times before (not even counting the Civil War) and we’ve made our way. However, thinking whatever a new, more “civil” US will look like any previous era we’ve been in is folly. Also, of course, just thinking something along the line of “everything will be better when enough of the olds just die off,” which is the lazy person’s idea of change, isn’t gonna work. If you want a better and more “civil” US, go out there and do the work.

Jonah: What’s your take on college athletics and the NCAA money-making marching in particular?

I think the University of Chicago had the right idea in the 1930s when it cut its Big Ten football program because it was getting in the way of learning. Chicago has a football team now; it’s Division III, which I think is a fine speed for college athletics. At the level of Division I, the athletes (particularly in football and basketball) are being exploited, flat out. I’d tear it all up and start with a clean sheet if I could.

SusanE: How far left / liberal (and on which particular topics) is too far left / liberal, in your opinion? At what point are you like, woah, back up and bring in some perspective here?

I mean, I think capitalism, properly managed (which it’s not at the moment, and I think obviously so) works as a decent motivator for people and to spur innovation and creativity, so I think chucking it out entirely wouldn’t be something I’d be for, which is to be clear an entirely unsurprising point of view for a well-off white dude to have. I think the left generally has the same problem as the right, which is that at the edges it has a tendency to warp toward authoritarianism and away from representative governments, and that’s also never good.

John: Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck or one hundred duck-sized horses?

I wouldn’t fight them. I’d put them on display and make a bundle.

Christopher Franklin: I had the experience of seeing Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi in a bright sunlit room with less than ten people just before its auction…. Has there been some visual work of art that left you speechless?

I just saw an exhibit of MC Escher work in Boston, and to be able to get up close to some of those pieces was a privilege, and fascinating.

JReynolds197: Is there any period of history that interests you and you keep coming back to?

The 1920s in the US fascinates me and is what I consider to be the start of what we might consider the American Century. So it wouldn’t entirely surprise me if in the next decade or so we see the close of the American Century, and see the rise of what I suspect is the Pacific Century, where the US is still a hugely significant player, but not nearly the only one. I think this will make the next quarter century a very interesting one to live in, like the 1920s were (and also the 30s, although… differently), and one I think I will have been glad to be here to see.

Malarkus: Re your post last year about millenials. Should we just start killing off the boomers?

No, that will take care of itself soon enough, and I’m generally against wholesale murder, of boomers or anyone else. In any event, I’m pretty sure boomers per se are not the problem, just the latent-to-overt racism a non-trivial number of them appear to suffer, chained to their groveling admiration of Mammon, and how the combination of both has led to some horrible damn decisions.

Cthulhu: Hair: at what point will you switch into full Bezos mode and just shave it all off (but keep facial hair)? When oh when will you do the decent thing and pull a full Patrick?

I tried bald a little more than a decade ago to see what it would like; I thought it looked fine but Krissy didn’t like it, and she’s the one who has to look at me all the time. I suspect at some point not long from now I’ll go full Patrick Stewart, since the hair in the front is thinning more significantly now and I don’t like the idea of wandering around with wisps. But no solid time table on that.

Dave Divilbiss: What do you miss about Fresno?

Not much? Which is not to say that I did not enjoy or appreciate Fresno when I was there — I had a ton of fun there and I think the city generally gets a bad rap in California. But the things I would miss about Fresno at this point are the people I knew there, and I’m still in touch with them and we’re still friends. So what’s to miss? I’m still fond of Fresno, but I don’t miss it.

Frankie: What are your thoughts on public education funding? What are your thoughts on recent teacher walkouts in multiple states? And, any general thoughts regarding public vs. private education?

I think public education is immensely important and needs to be funded so that every student gets a good and useful education, not just the ones in the “right” zip codes. I support the teacher walkouts generally, because the shit public school teachers have had to put up with in the last several years at least is nonsense. I went to private schools for high school and college and benefited from both, but a “vs” position is not the way I’d want to think about it — public education needs to robust and useful to students independent of any discussion of private schools. That’s the baseline. I don’t think throwing money at public schools will solve every problem, but I think adequately funding public schools removes a lot of problems and lets people focus on the other, different problems. Bottom line: Every public school in America should be a school you’d be fine with having your own child at.

Richard Winks: Do you think you might restore the dog population in your family?

Krissy will decide that. I’m not going to rush her on that score.

Heather Wallace: I really admire your cat photos and struggle with taking photos of my cats with my cell phone camera. They always close their eyes with the flash. What tips can you give aspiring cat photographers?

One, stop using flash and take the picture in a room with adequate lighting. Two, take a whole lot of pictures, one after another. It’s a digital camera, you’re not going to run out of film, and you can delete the pictures you don’t like. That’s a start!

Edward Brennan: Should one be civil to those people who are not civil to you? Obviously, we should not normally be assholes, but is being an asshole a justified response to an asshole? What about if someone is being an asshole to others, what do we do?

My general rule of thumb is to treat people with civility until and unless they give you a reason not to. Where that line is for each person is in a different place, and may depend on context. Also let’s also note there’s a difference between tolerating people who might be momentarily rude and/or obnoxious, and tolerating the actions of people who believe you or someone else aren’t fully human and/or don’t have a right to the same freedoms and privileges they might enjoy. Much of the question of “civility” these days boils down to racists and bigots plaintively whining that their opinion that other people are somehow inferior isn’t treated with respect and gravity. And, well. Fuck those guys. Fuck them right up the nose. As I’ve said before, if you want me to treat your ideas with respect, get better ideas.

And that wraps up the Reader Request Week for 2018! Thanks to everyone who asked questions. Let’s do it again in 10 to 12 months!

Reader Request Week 2018 #9: Writing Short Bits

And now, for your delight, short answers to some of the writing-and-writing-life-related questions I got this year for Reader Request Week:

jlanstey: Having acquired a new office chair, thoughts on furniture and home interior design generally. Some classic SF writers (Heinlein, Laumer) seemed to prefer stark modern, but glimpses of your abode and one picture I’ve seen of Wil Wheaton’s computer space seem to be strictly mainstream current, slightly 70s, maybe. Is home decor a mutual decision or is it up to the wife? A generational thing?

Well, my office has bespoke furniture (I had it made by a local cabinetmaker) but it’s less about making a particular esthetic statement than it is about it being functional. I think if I were going to give my cabinetry a particular description, it would probably be “21st Century Mennonite,” as this is what the cabinetmaker is, and he did the design. I picked out the wall colors and then the rest of the furniture with Krissy. I actually do like midcentury modern design, but not enough to entirely redo my office.

Allison: How much time in a given week/month do spend reading other peoples’ work for pleasure (as opposed to reading for the purpose of writing a blurb or other publishing-industry related business)?

I try to read a book a week that I want to read for myself, emphasis on try. That said, I read less fiction when I’m writing fiction, and read far less in general when I’m on deadline, like, uh, now.

Nic: On “not writing for free”. You recently wrote about not writing for free, and I understand and appreciate the post. For people who aspire to write but cannot get their short works accepted anywhere can you offer any insight as to a good way to proceed?

One, keep sending the work out until you run out of places to send it to; two, while you’re doing that, write new stuff; three, repeat step one with the new stuff; four, repeat step two. Almost everyone starts off piling up rejections. It’s part of the process. If you’ve decided to you don’t want to send out a story anymore but still want people to see it, put up a web site for your story archive. But I wouldn’t give them to other people to exploit without benefit to you.

Pedro: What’s it like being a musically inclined writer? (And how is that new guitar working out?)

The new guitar is lovely and I’m getting ever so slightly better with my six-string chording as I go along, so that’s nice. I don’t really think much about what it’s like to be a musically-inclined writer, actually. I guess it’s nice? I did recently come to the realization that I would like to try to write songs at some point, but I don’t know if I want to make the effort to write all the terrible songs I would have to write first before I wrote some good ones. I’ll have to think about it more once the new book is done.

Meg: I am curious as to how your professional experience affects your perceptions when interacting with creative works. Does your work as a professional film critic affect your engagement with films you watch for non-work-related reasons? How does your experience as a writer inform the ways you look at books you read for pleasure, or video games you play? Can you even tell whether these factors influence your reactions?

With regard to having been a film critic, having watched so many films with a critical eye means that most times films hold very few surprises for me — I can see where most of the plot beats need to happen, and where the structure dictates certain events, long before the movie gets to them. But this doesn’t ruin movies for me; it just means I get a certain amount of pleasure seeing if and how the filmmakers pull off their remit. And in a general sense, being a storycrafter makes you aware of how well story is working — or not — in most of your entertainment. I do think that influences what I like and don’t like, but not necessarily more than other factors.

Amy: What was the book that made you love reading?

I learned to read so early that I literally don’t remember not being able to read, so I can’t say which book made me love reading. I don’t remember ever not loving it.

Bilancij: Once you have a few pitches ready, how does one go about trying to get repped?

I assume you’re talking for film/TV, since you don’t pitch novels, you just write them. I got my film/TV rep through my literary agent, so he was a package deal. Which has worked out very well for me!

Luther M. Siler: How important is the “community” aspect of Whatever to you? Related: have you ever considered implementing any sort of open thread scenario where people can talk about… well, whatever?

Well, several years back I opened a discussion site called “Whateveresque,” so that community members here could carry on discussion without my blog posts as instigation. It was very successful but I had to shutter it because my career was taking off and I couldn’t devote the time to moderate two sites. As to how important the Whatever community is: I think it’s pretty great. Some people here have been reading the site nearly as long as it’s existed. Which is wild. I’m glad people still show up.

DeborahBailey914: I watched your travel schedule unfold on Whatever and was struck by the variety of cities and venues where you appeared for Head On. I’ve wondered…are authors in charge of appearance scheduling for their latest publication or are book appearances managed by the publisher?

I think it varies with author and publishers but by and large my book tour travel is managed, coordinated and paid for by Tor, via its PR department. Which is great because I have absolutely no interest in doing it myself. I’m glad Tor handles it, and in all cases they do a very fine job.

Josh Needle: You consistently use “sooner than later” instead of “sooner rather than later.” I’m assuming that this is a conscious choice. When did you start this and why? I Googled the question and both are “acceptable,” but I’ll admit that it drives me nuts and, at least momentarily, diverts my attention from the story.

I’ve always used it, and it’s always been acceptable usage as far as I know, and no, it’s not a conscious choice to use it rather than the other format you note, although I know I’ve used the other one, too. I’m afraid you’ll have to accept that I use it; I don’t think it’s that unusual.

Adam L: How long of a break do you take before finishing up one novel and beginning writing in earnest on the next one?

Usually a month and sometimes more. Honestly it depends on when the next one is due.

Magda: Would you consider writing Big Idea posts about your own books? And why or why not?

I don’t write them, because I have the option of writing about my books here any time I like. The Big Idea is meant to help promote others.

James B: Do you regularly read any political writers or pundits that would broadly be considered conservative? If so, what about them do you enjoy – or at least find worthwhile?

Some of the columnists/writers I’ve enjoyed reading over the years more on the right side of the spectrum include PJ O’Rourke, James Lileks, Mona Charen, Kathleen Parker, Glenn Reynolds and these days I’ve enjoyed Jennifer Rubin and Max Boot, who are conservative but increasingly exasperated with the Trump folks. I am an established fan of HL Mencken, who today is seen as a conservative icon, although I’m not always entirely sure why this is, having read him extensively. Mostly I’ve found them both entertaining as writers and usually well able to articulate their points, even if I don’t always agree with their arguments. There are some current writers on the right who can be clever and amusing as writers who I think are fronting some odious politics, and I find it hard to get around that aspect of their writing in order to enjoy their prose. There are others currently writing on the right who just seem dim, and I wonder how they got their jobs. But as a general rule I don’t have a problem reading political writers to the right of me.

Mike: Is it reasonable to avoid work by artists you would otherwise enjoy because you disagree with their politics?

Why do you need it to be reasonable? Also, reasonable to whom? It’s your life, man. Your life on this planet is short and in terms of entertaining yourself, I don’t see a problem skipping over work from people you find problematic in one way or another. As a philosophical matter I think it’s laudable to read widely and diversely, which includes reading people who have substantially different political opinions than you do. As a practical matter, it’s your life reading time and reading for enjoyment shouldn’t feel like a chore. So if an author pains you (even if it’s me) skip ’em and read something else by someone else. Maybe you’ll come around to them later. Maybe you won’t. But I assure you, you won’t run out of other things to read.

New Books and ARCs, 5/11/18

Another Friday, another tasty stack of new books and ARCs that have come to the Scalzi Compound. I see some very fine work in this one — what here is catching your attention? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Reader Request Week 2018 #8: Public Speaking

Gregory asks:

I’m curious about your ‘public speaking’ role. I know you have representation and are available for events. I would like to know things like what advice do you have for other folk who don’t do much public speaking? Do you have any formal training? Why should somebody pay to hear you speak? What’s the difference between writing your own speech and hiring a speechwriter? Have you ever written somebody else’s speech? Do you write out your entire presentation or just have an outline?

So, let’s go through some of this quickly and some of it less so.

Yes, I do have representation for public speaking; I’m represented by the Macmillan Speaker’s Bureau (which makes a little bit of sense as Tor, my primary publisher, is a Macmillan imprint) and indeed I am available for events. I don’t have any formal training, I’ve just ended up talking in public a lot and now have been doing it in a professional sense for coming on two decades. The difference between writing one’s own speech and hiring a speechwriter is that I don’t charge myself when I write something for me to say. I’ve written presentations and speeches for other people, sure, but not enough that I would put it on my resume. At events I will occasionally read prepared work, and occasionally work from an outline, and occasionally just get up on a stage and start talking.

As for why someone should pay to hear me speak, well, there are two ways to answer this question.

The first is, hey, when I speak, I’m fairly entertaining. People pay for other forms of entertainment, including books, movies, concerts and other live events. So, why not speaking as well? And certainly authors have done very well with speaking tours over the years, and not just recently. Dickens made a tidy sum on his speaking tours, which was good for him because in the US at the time his books were rampantly pirated. Twain would go on speaking tours when his investments tanked and he needed money. They were by all accounts quite entertaining evenings.

Indeed, there are some authors for whom the books aren’t their major profit center; the speaking tours and events are. The books are their calling cards and the way to help keep their live acts current. Political commentators and downtime politicians are especially likely to punt out a book and then take their act on the rubber chicken circuit, with the speeches and appearances earning them more over a year than they got for the book advance (also, many of these folks have as a rider that a certain number of books must be bought by the organization fronting the event, so it’s a handy way of clearing inventory as well). Sports figures, tech gurus, business wizards and lifestyle advisors also pull this trick — and it’s a pretty nice trick if you can manage it, and either like or at least can tolerate blathering at a hotel lectern for your living.

Note that who pays to have you speak will vary. Most of my paid speaking engagements are for organizations who pay my asking fee; the individuals who come to see me speak generally don’t have to pay (or don’t have to pay extra, if they are at an event that had an entrance fee). Other authors I know set a fee with an organization, which will then turn around and sell individual tickets to an event in the hopes of making a profit over the appearance fee, but generally speaking you have to be a pretty well-known and/or beloved author to pull that one off, and at least for the moment I don’t appear to be that well-known, or (alas) that beloved.

The second reason for why someone should pay to hear me speak is somewhat more transactional, and that is: Because I should be paid for my time. A speaking event isn’t just about the hour (or so) I’m on stage and then the hour to two hours (or so) that I’m signing books. It’s also about the time to the airport, the time on the plane, the time in car from the airport, the time in the hotel, the time meeting with the event organizers and/or the time spent socializing at the pre-event gathering, and back to the hotel, car, plane and the return home. It’s also time I’m not at home, with my wife and child and pets. It’s also time I’m not with friends, or elsewise doing another thing with my time. It’s also generally time taken away from writing, which is, you may, remember, my main gig and the reason people want to see me live in the first place.

As this is all the case, the question is: How much is all that time, and time away, worth to me? The answer is: a fair amount, actually, and that amount is reflected in my speaking and appearance fee. I don’t feel guilty about making that determination of the value of my time, since as I’ve noted before that this is all the time I will ever have in this universe and therefore I should in fact have a good grasp on what my time is worth and expect people to understand that. Also, you know. If you don’t want to pay my fee, then don’t; I’ll stay at home, and happily so.

So, you may ask, is every appearance I do paid for in this manner? Not all of them. Book tour events are handled differently, as are most conventions I attend. I’m on staff for the JoCo Cruise. At this point, however, I don’t do events that end up costing me money to be at, and I don’t do events where I don’t think there’s a blunt transactional benefit to my being there. The only exceptions to this are events I’m attending like a fan, i.e., I’m going to hang out with friends and see people I like. In those cases I pay to show up like anyone else. But if I’m on the clock? Yeah, it has to be worth my time, and also, I’m the one who decides what is worth my time and what is not.

(Also, yes: High-class problems to have! On the other hand, high-class problems are still problems. And also, if you’re a fan of my books, ask yourself whether you want me to spend more time talking, or more time writing. If it’s the latter, then I suspect you might appreciate me making it clear to people who want me to show up to places that my time is valuable.)

In terms of advice for public speaking, the first thing I would say is that if it’s something you don’t enjoy, don’t do it — you won’t be happy, which means that no one else will be happy, either. There are other ways to promote yourself. Find one you like. Beyond that, just prepare: know how much time you have to fill, know what the expectations are for your presentation, do a few run-throughs of your material before you get up on the stage. And then after that, don’t panic — it will work or not. If it works, great! If not, you’ll know better for next time. If you want more details than this, here you go.

I personally like speaking in public and also I don’t get nervous in front of crowds, so most of the time it’s fun for me, which is pretty great, considering how much of it I do. Hopefully I’ll keep getting paid to do it. But if that ever stops happening, well. I still have my day job, I suppose.

Reader Request Week 2018 #7: Mortality

Well, this is a sort of ironic question to address on my birthday, from Theo, who asks:

Do you think about mortality frequently or do you try to put it out of your mind? Do you think it’s better to ignore it or jam pack as much as you can into every minute with one eye on the clock?

Well, if I’m going to be right up front about it, I neither frequently think about mortality nor try to put it out of my mind. At this point I’ve largely made peace with the fact that I will not be immortal and that I will one day die, and also, that there are probably worse things than being dead.

I suspect this is the case because, honestly, I’ve been dead before — more accurately, not alive, which is what being dead is. However, this particular session of being not alive happened prior to my birth, and we don’t call that being “dead” even if that’s effectively what it is. Whatever you call it, I was not alive for the first 13.7 billion years or so of the existence of this universe.

How did I feel about it then? Well, I didn’t feel anything about it. I didn’t exist. Not existing — not being alive — didn’t bother me; I had no capacity to be bothered about it, or to feel anything else about it. I rather strongly suspect that being dead again will be much the same. It won’t bother me, or make me happy, or sad, or anything else. However I feel about not existing prior to non existence, and I imagine I will feel something about it, will be irrelevant. I’ll just be gone. And that will be that.

I should be clear that I like existing, actually quite a bit, and am in no rush to stop existing. But from experience (so to speak) I know that not existing isn’t so bad. It’s not something I’m afraid of. I don’t fear eternal judgment, or worry that I will miss out on some eternal reward. There’s no eternal; there’s just nothing. Intellectual honesty requires me to note I could be wrong about this, in which case, won’t I be surprised. But I’m not so worried about being wrong that it’s going to cause me to change how I live my life.

Since I’m not exactly afraid of death or preoccupied by the nature of an afterlife, on a day to day basis I don’t give either a whole lot of thought. I don’t hide from it, and when it does cross my mind I’ll think about it for an appropriate amount of time. Then I’ll move on, because I have enough other things on my plate to keep me busy — I have books to write, and places to go, and people to see and pets to pet. It’s a pretty full schedule. And when it’s not full, that’s fine too, since when I’m dead, I won’t be able to lie around or nap or zone out, either. I like doing nothing every now and again, and now is the only time when I’ll be able to do it. So, you know, I’m gonna enjoy it.

I will admit that at least some of my sanguinity regarding death comes from the fact that I feel generally content with my life, which is to say, I have accomplished most of the things I wanted to accomplish when I was younger, and by and large there’s not that much about my life that I regret or would change. There is always more to do, of course, and I would be happy for more things to happen before I shuffle off. But honestly, if I get hit by the proverbial bus tomorrow, I don’t think anyone would say I hadn’t made good use of my time on the planet (well, some people might, but they would be jerks).

In terms of jam packing every single moment — nah. Aside from the notation above that I enjoy doing nothing from time to time, I also tend to be a proponent of quality versus quantity. Being frantic to check things off a list would annoy me after a while. Certainly there are experiences I have not yet had that I would love to have, and I will try to get around to them. But probably not in a wild-eyed sprint against death. Ironically, I don’t have time for that.

If you ever get yourself in a spiral about mortality, I would suggest to you that you remember that you, too, didn’t exist before now, and that, if you think about it, it probably wasn’t that bad when you didn’t, even if it does mean you missed the dinosaurs. So future not existing will probably not be too bad, either, and will take care of itself in any event.

With that in mind, you can focus on the part where you do exist, and make the most of it, however that works for you. Good luck with that! I’ll be doing the same.

Happy Birthday to Me, Here’s a Story For You: “Regarding Your Application Status”

When I went out on tour for Head On last month, I wrote a new, funny short story to perform for the audiences, on the thinking that since they went out of their way to come see me, usually on a weeknight, they should get something special that no one else gets: in this case, to hear a short story I wrote before anyone else in the world does. This is one reason to come see me on tour, folks! You get sneak peaks! In any event, the tour is now over, and now I’m happy to share it with everyone. Consider this my gift to you, on my 49th birthday.

The idea of the story is simple: There’s a galaxy-spanning federation of planets out there, and we humans of Earth are super excited about it. And we say “Can we join?” And they say, “Well, you can apply.” And this is what happens when we apply. Enjoy!

 

REGARDING YOUR APPLICATION STATUS
by John Scalzi

Dear Humanity:

Thank you so much for your application to join the Intergalactic Federation of Civilizations (henceforth abbreviated as the IFC). We regret to say that after careful consideration by our Admissions Committee, we are currently unable to offer you admission, either as a full or probationary member of the IFC. Indeed, I have to confess there was serious consideration as to whether we should refer your application to the Containment Committee as possible evidence of the need for a quarantine of your planet and sequestration of your species. But after a close vote, we decided simply to table the matter and move on.

I understand that this news will come as a disappointment to many of you. While it is not the practice of the Admissions Committee to offer detailed explanations of its decisions to reject applicants, I understand that, as this is your first attempt at an application, you may benefit from a few hints, tips and pointers that will put your civilization in better stead if and when you ever choose to apply for IFC membership again. So in the spirit of helpfulness, and to give you something productive to do with your time, here are some of the reasons committee members gave for rejecting your application.

1. You don’t have a single viable planetary government. Seriously, you have at least two hundred political entities talking smack about each other all the time. It’s tiring to hear you squabble. One of the committee members compared it to a nest of Vlendor in molt, which is a comparison you won’t understand but which means that you’re basically all angry and sticky and unpleasant to be around (and even when the Vlendor are done molting they’re still mostly sticky, so take that as you will). Yes, we know about the UN. Come on, dudes. Pull another of our appendages. You really need to sort this out amongst yourselves. Pick a government! Any government! Well, not any government. Be choosy. Sweden’s system seems nice. We’re not telling you what to do, though. We know you have that oppositional thing going on. Just figure it out.

2. Somewhat related to point one, you folks still spend an unseemly amount of time killing the hell out of each other, which strikes many of our committee members as a really bougie thing to do. I think these particular committee members may not actually have a good grasp on what the term “bougie” means in this particular case but I think the basic concept comes through — it’s not a great look. If you can’t control yourselves at home, how can you be trusted to control yourselves out in the universe, and so on. Have you ever tried not killing the hell out of each other? Maybe give it a spin! You might like it! We know you’re really good at coming up with excuses for why you really just need to kill each other, but I have to be honest: We don’t grade on a curve with this one.

3. Also your various bigotries, hatreds, inequalities, blah blah blah, jeez, you people are really terrible to each other. Until you get over that, no one’s going to want to hang out with you at parties, if you know what I mean, and I think you do. Look, I don’t want to belabor the point, and I know you all really hate being lectured, but you all also kind of have cosmic moral halitosis, and it’s just not polite not to tell you. Get some gum, if you get my drift. A lot of gum. Like, a pallet of gum. I know, I know, but come on.

4. Okay, this point is a little confusing, but one of the committee members says that you have produced far too much plastic, and another says that you’ve not produced nearly enough of it. The gist of it is that you’re doing plastic wrong. Pick which way you want to go with that one and get back to us.

5. You may wish to stop beaming your television shows into space; they’re not putting you in the best light. For example, one of our committee members said, “They must be punished for what they did to Gilligan.” It was pointed out to this committee member that, one, Gilligan’s Island was a fictional television series and, two, that it being employed as a shorthand for alien civilizations not understanding the concept of television series was so overused as to be both trite and offensive. To which this committee member replied, “Did I type ‘Gilligan’? Sorry, I meant Gillian. They must be punished for wasting Gillian Anderson in those last two seasons of The X-Files.” Which is both fair and accurate.

6. Your sports make us angry and confused. A small list of specific problematic issues for us include the two-point conversion, the designated hitter, why there is no relegation in Major League Soccer, why the WNBA is not more popular, the entire sports of Cricket and Australian Rules Football, how rhythmic gymnastics differs in any relevant manner from dancing, and why curling is not just called “frosty shuffleboard.” Fix all of these, please.

7. Your decision to declassify Pluto as a planet is deeply offensive to at least a couple of committee members who hail from ice planets. While one of these committee members would be satisfied by the reinstatement of Pluto as a quote-unquote “real” planet, another one requests that you also launch Neil deGrasse Tyson into the sun, not only for being the instigator of the removal of Pluto, but also for, and these are their words, “Being so damn literal on the Internet all the time.” I will note that per point two above, this committee member speaks only for themselves and not the entire committee on this matter, but yeah, Neil should maybe lighten up.

8. You should floss more. When I asked the committee member who made this complaint to whom this was directed, they simply said, “all of them,” and refused to say anything further. However, this complaint was endorsed by literally all the other members of the committee, so, well. There it is. Also, we mean really floss, not just sort of swipe at your teeth. You have to get under the gumline, people.

9. This line-item is a grab bag of things we want for you to consider, and in no particular order: Be kinder to each other, feed the poor, stop heating up your planet, hydrate, exercise a little more, eat meat a little less, put out Half-Life 3 because we think that story is hilarious, give George RR Martin a break on his writing schedule, canonize Prince, David Bowie and Janelle Monae, more pictures of pets on the Internet, sell Lin-Manuel Miranda on Hamilton 2: The Quickening, tell your friends and family you love them and for God’s sake stop electing so many exasperating, venal and greedy people, it’s really not a great long-term plan.

10. Finally, you should probably be aware that humanity wasn’t the only group from Earth petitioning to be let into the IFC; we also have applications from the cetaceans, the corvids and a joint application from the cephalopods and the blattodeans, where the octopus and squid handle the oceans and the cockroaches and termites deal with the land. I have to tell you that each of these applications got a lot further along than yours, and not just because they are neither actively warming up the planet nor wasting the talents of Gillian Anderson. Maybe you humans should take a look at what they’re all doing right. Or don’t, we’re not the boss of you. Just don’t act all surprised and upset when you’re ruled by whales, crows or cuttlefish. You can’t say you weren’t warned.

So, there you are. Incorporate these findings into your next application, when the IFC opens up for another round of submissions in twelve hundred of your years. Hope you’re still around then! Good luck!

Sincerely,

Klob Munsob,
Admissions Committee Head, IFC

And, should you want to have it read to you by the author, well, here it is, from my stop at the Strand bookstore, in NYC (also, a Q&A follows, where I get discursive on several questions).

49

Wait, I’m almost done with my 40s already? 

As most of you know every year on my birthday I take a picture of myself, a sort of “state of the Scalzi” photo. This is this year’s, brought about in part by the fact that my allergies have picked this very day to kick in and literally every other picture I’ve taken today makes me look like I’m about to burst into tears. This is the best picture out of, like, eighty. I honestly hope this is not a harbinger for the rest of my 49th year.

But I suspect it’s not. I already have lots of very cool things on the runway for this next year and plans with awesome people to do ridiculous things. You will get to see some of them! Promise.

In the meantime, on we go to the last year of my 40s. Ready? Let’s do this.