The Whatever Holiday Gift Guide 2023 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!
Hey, feel like you could use a few minutes of relentless industrial droning? Well, then, have I got a track for you! It started off much more chipper and in a different key entirely, but little by little it ended up here. I guess I’m in that kind of mood musically, as November grinds down to cold and early darkness. Maybe I need some Christmas music or something. Or a hug.
Anyway, enjoy the bleakness, if bleakness is a thing you enjoy.
PAIGE E. EWING:
When Solifu, the impossibly ancient Egyptian mystic, held her tiny spider-kin daughter in her arms, she knew she would never bear another. She would bear two more sons, lion-kin like their father, Simon the last surviving prince of Nemea, but Liliana would be her last daughter. She would not survive to see the adult this babe would one day become. “I give you my word on this, little one. Your childhood will be filled with love and music, dancing and joy.”
Ixchel, the Peruvian jaguar-kin who owned both her and Simon’s hearts touched the infant’s face. “She only has two eyes. Is she a Normal?”
“She is like me,” Solifu said. “Her sight will mature, but it will be hard for her. She will need all three of us.”
When Liliana was five, a little boy pushed her and curved razor-sharp blades popped out of her forearms, scaring them both. Solifu, Simon, and Ixchel took turns training their tiny daughter in combat discipline, so she could handle her natural weaponry without harming herself or others.
At ten, Liliana looked like a petite child of seven. She opened new eyes on her temples, green and shimmering like chrome. Unnamed spectrums filled her vision. Her development stopped as her mind re-shaped itself to adapt. Liliana laughed in a world with new colors in all directions at once. The bright beads of gypsy scarves sparkled even behind her as she danced to the music the Romani circus people made on well-worn instruments.
By twenty, little Lilly as her father called her, had the body of a Normal girl of twelve. The third pair of eyes that opened like black pearl tears showed her souls tinged yellow with pity as her old friends found husbands and wives. In time, with the help of combat training and focus, her mind adjusted again.
Each new kind of vision made her more different, but circus children didn’t mind different, and still played hide and seek with her. And now, Liliana could fly. She danced joyously on the high wires and leapt fearlessly from the trapeze swings. Her father’s strong hands were always there to catch her.
When she finally grew up, Lilly wanted to be like her adult sister Isabella, who had her own caravan and made her living as Madame Bella, the seer of all that is hidden. Her baby brothers, Petros and Jason, for the first time gave Liliana someone smaller than her to care for. They grinned her father’s smile at the brightly-colored toys she made for them.
At thirty, when Lilly’s body reached a fourteen-year-old’s adolescence, her final large swirly pair of spider-kin eyes opened on her forehead. Her mind drowned in overwhelming images of what was, what might be, and what had been. She couldn’t close her eyes. She couldn’t shut it out.
It was too much.
Liliana’s young mind lost itself so completely that her parents had to dress her and feed her like a babe that first year. Her mind tried to fight its way to sanity, but often it just shut down, leaving Lilly floating in an empty dark place that time didn’t touch. The universal therapy of combat discipline brought her back – the swish and clash of blades, the feel of the ground beneath her feet. Slowly, her mind re-shaped itself.
She remembered how to dance and remembered how to fly, but her joy was gone.
Liliana’s sister Isabella bid her goodbye one day. She had foreseen a daughter coming to her and her husband, but the not-yet-conceived child would only be safe if they fled Europe to Iceland. So they did.
At night, Lilly’s control slipped and bloody nightmares came. Wars across time. The deaths of everyone she knew. Emotionally charged events were the hardest to shut out, and nothing was harder to not see than death. Her father and first mother died, the blood too bright, the growls of the red Celtic werewolves ripping them apart too loud.
Solifu saw the same visions, but she told her daughter she had a lot of practice navigating the paths of the future. It was a true statement, but not truth. Her daughter trusted her to use her vision to find a safe path.
But Solifu made a different choice.
She hoped one day her daughter would forgive her.
Liliana’s nightmares came back with a vengeance one night, more vivid than ever. As she often did when nightmares plagued her, Liliana crawled into the cage with the big, lazy true lions to sleep. The lionesses guarded her between them like a frightened cub. Just as she drifted to sleep again, her second mother Ixchel opened the cage door and ushered in two lion cubs. Lilly recognized her two brothers, Jason and Petros, pretending to be true lions.
“Shh,” Ixchel said. “Stay hidden.”
The circus never moved in the dead of night, but that time it did. The animals, all the misfits, and the Romani got on board a big ship, leaving the beautiful wooden caravans, their homes, behind.
Liliana’s father and first mother didn’t board.
Screams, her father’s bone-shaking roar, blood and violence filled Liliana’s fourth eyes, crisp and sharp, real and now.
Solifu, her husband and eldest sons fighting at her side, delayed the pack of Himmler’s red wolves while all their Roma friends, their beloved wife, Ixchel, and their youngest children escaped on the tide. Liliana saw other possible paths, but they were all filled with the death of the Romani, the gypsy children she’d grown up with who now had children of their own.
Solifu and Simon could have run, but they chose to stay and die so their friends could survive.
And Liliana, helpless to shut it out, helpless to change what she saw, watched them die again and again like her second mother’s gramophone stuck in a bloody groove.
Over a hundred years later, Precise Oaths, first in the Liliana and the Fae of Fayetteville series, starts. Thirty years in our future, the Green resurges, gaining strength with every clean air initiative, and combustion engine rusting in a recycle lot. The Green feeds power to the hidden peoples with kinship to beasts and plants and stones.
Neurodivergent loner, Liliana, as Madame Anna Sees All, guides the people of Fayetteville, North Carolina away from danger and toward happiness. Crippling social anxiety ensures that the only people she talks to in her little town are paying clients.
When a red wolf-kin, Peter Teague, and two police officers accuse her of being a serial killer, she flees. But the red wolf just wants to stop more deaths. Lilly fights shoulder-to-shoulder with this decent man descended from her parents’ murderers. Siobhan, the flower sprite lends bullets from her machine gun, and the goblin Doctor Nudd lends wisdom and healing to their victory.
Faytetteville is safer, and Liliana has friends again. Friends bring her laughter, music, tea parties, and dancing. Their commanding officer, Colonel Bennett, a Fae prince in hiding, flirts with her in his voice like deep honey, promising more.
In Explosive Chemistry, book 2, Liliana’s fourth eyes see murder coming for all of them, friends and clients alike. It’s a wave of blood darker than she has seen since she hid in a cage full of lions as an adolescent. How can she save everyone she knows? She and Pete stopped the serial killers already. What did they miss?
Many paths of the future where she saves her friends show her own death, but Liliana refuses to be alone again.
For the first time, she understands Solifu’s choice.
It’s her life. Liliana will decide who is worth the risk of it.
Today is Day Two of the Whatever Holiday Gift Guide 2023, 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 (11/29): Other creators (musicians, artists, crafters, etc!)
Welcome to the first day of the Whatever Shopping Guide 2023 — 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 12/31/2023) 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 (11/28/23): Non-traditional books!
I deejayed a dance at a Star Trek-themed convention over the weekend. I set up my DJ stuff on the main stage of the convention, which, naturally enough, had a starship bridge on it. Krissy came up and sat in the captain’s chair, and, may I say, it was a natural fit for her. I would definitely let her lead me to strange new worlds, and such. Indeed I did, since she’s the reason I moved to Ohio.
The DJ set was the last public event I have in 2023; now I am at home for two! whole! months! before heading to the Confusion convention in Michigan in late January. What shall I do with my time? Sleep, for one. Spend a bit of time zoning out watching movies, for another. We’ll see where I go from there after that.
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 27, 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 27: 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 28: Non-Traditionally Published Authors — Self-published? Electronically published? Or other? This is your day. This also includes comics/graphic novels and audiobooks.
Wednesday, November 29: 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, November 30: 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 1: 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.
Humble Bundle is an organization that bundles up things like video games and books and other stuff that people like to have, offers them pretty cheaply, in various tiers, and then donates a portion of the proceeds to charitable organizations. A couple of months ago, Tor approached me about doing a Humble Bundle project with them, and as it happens, I had a charity that I thought would be perfect for such a bundle: First Book, which provides books to and champions literacy for children all around the United States. Children’s literacy, and their access to books, is more important now than ever. So I was happy to come on board.
With all that as preamble, allow me to announce the John Scalzi Humble Book Bundle Collection, which for the next 20 days allows you get up to $184 worth of the electronic versions of many of my novels, novellas and short stories for a mere fraction of that cost, with First Book as the bundle’s official charitable recipient.
For those who have never done this Humble Bundle thing before, it’s pretty simple: There are tiers of access, and the more you pay, the more you get. Want to pay a single dollar? We’re happy to give you Old Man’s War for that. Got $10 to spare? Then you get Old Man’s War, The Ghost Brigades, The Last Colony and Zoe’s Tale, the first four books in the Old Man’s War series.
But if you really want to splurge, for $18, you can get all six books of the Old Man’s War series, all three books of the Interdependency series, the two books and novella of the Lock In series, four stand-alone novels including Redshirts, my Hugo award winner, and the Kaiju Preservation Society, as well as my Hugo-winning essay collection Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded, and even a smattering of short stories, including the infamous “Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book One: The Dead City: Prologue” (which was, improbably and delightfully, nominated for a Hugo as well). All told there are 21 items in the top tier package, if you pay $18 or more. That’s a pretty good deal.
(And yes, you can pay more if you would like, and allocate the percentages so that more of what you spend goes to First Book. It’s all right there on the bundle page.)
Oh, and another thing: Yes, I will get a cut of the amount that goes to Tor/Macmillan for this sale. You should know that half of my cut is going directly into The Scalzi Family Foundation (up to $50k), which we use to fund our own charitable, educational and cultural giving. The Scalzi Family Foundation, as you may recall, was the primary sponsor of the GenCon Writers Symposium this year, and this year we’ve also donated to local food banks, educational and cultural organizations, and other organizations which benefit both our local communities and communities across the US.
I hope you’ll take a look at the bundle and consider stocking up on the Scalzi eBooks that you haven’t gotten yet. Additionally, I hope you’ll tell other people about it. You probably know some folks who wouldn’t mind getting more Scalzi ebooks really cheaply and/or supporting a very excellent literacy charity. Here’s how to do both!
When you really want to go outside and run around, but your human is busy, like, staring into that incomprehensible glowing rectangle of hers. Oh! The suffering!
Yes, I realize this is the second “dog walk”-themed photo this week. But look at the pathos here! I couldn’t resist.
Here in the US it is Thanksgiving, so for all who celebrate it, I hope it is a happy and reflective day for you. Everyone else: Hey, enjoy your Thursday, okay?
(Also: Very shortly after this picture was taken, Charlie was indeed taken on a walk. Existential crisis averted.)
Some writers have a “thing” – a niche, a trick, or a trope that they make their own. And then some other writers… wander. In this Big Idea for Being Michael Swanwick, a non-fiction exploration into the life and works of the multiple-award-winning author, Alvaro Zinos-Amaro explains how Swanwick’s thematic diversity is, indeed, his thing.
Life is like a box of Michael Swanwick stories.
In fact, read enough of them, and the membrane separating his fiction from our reality becomes increasingly porous, so that we might say that Michael Swanwick stories are like a box of life.
When we discussed his story “Universe Box” Michael shared with me that he enjoys cigar boxes–probably not surprising from the author of Cigar-Box Faust and Other Miniatures (2003).
“Universe Box” opens with a trickster stealing the whole universe and hiding it inside a cigar box. That seems like an apt image for the magic of Swanwick’s writing. He can conjure up an entire cosmos in a few thousand or even just a couple of hundred words, which was part of what inspired me to produce Being Michael Swanwick.
Stations of the Tide (1991), a Nebula winner, was my first encounter with Michael’s fiction. I found the novel in a used bookshop during a blazing summer in the south of Spain. A teenager at the time, I devoured the book in a white heat that rivaled the weather, and by the time I put it down I half-believed the whole thing had been a dream. Some years passed and, now a late teen, I hit on his short story “The Dead” (1996), which made me sit up very straight. It took me a few stunned minutes to accept that its author was the same guy who had written that memorably trippy book. This happened a third time in 2001, when, in my early twenties, I read the Hugo-winning “The Dog Said Bow-Wow,” the first in what would become a series of irrepressibly fun stories, and managed to “discover” Michael Swanwick yet again.
Some writers have such distinctive or consistent approaches to their material that their prose becomes almost as identifiable as their bylines. Not so with Swanwick. One of his trademarks, I realized, was that he could completely disappear into the voices and aesthetics of his tales.
Darger and Surplus, the protagonists of “The Dog Said Bow-Wow” and many other fabulous romps, are masters of deceit. Looking back, it’s not surprising that Stations of the Tide features shapeshifters, or that a variety of tricksters keep popping up in Swanwick’s work (“Legions in Time,” “Coyote at the End of History,” “Annie Without Crow,” and so on).
He himself is the ultimate literary chameleon.
As a quick showcase of his versatility, consider these three openings from stories all published in 2010:
“You’re not the master.
No, I’m a police officer.
Then I have nothing to say to you.”
– “Steadfast Castle” (2010)
“In 1646, shortly before the end of the Thirty Years’ War, a patrol of Hessian cavalrymen, fleeing the aftermath of a disastrous battle to the north wherein a botched flanking maneuver had in an hour turned certain victory to abject rout, made camp at the foot of what a local peasant they had captured and forced to serve as a guide assured them was one of the highest mountains in the Spessart region of Germany.”
– “Goblin Lake” (2010)
“Miles and weeks passed under the wheels of Victor’s motorcycle.”
– “Libertarian Russia” (2010)
From the start, I wanted Being Michael Swanwick to celebrate the possibilities of short fiction. Swanwick’s work has remarkable scope and variety along every conceivable literary dimension. He’s been playing with form, narrative structure and tone with admirable results for over forty years.
If we think of short fiction as a laboratory, Michael is no doubt one of its most brilliant experimentalists. He might even be a mad scientist. After all, he’s written books like Michael Swanwick’s Field Guide to the Mesozoic Megafauna (2004) and The Periodic Table of Science Fiction (2005)….
In his Introduction to Cigar-Box Faust he says: “The primary rule of writing is to use exactly as many words to say something as it takes, no more and no less.”
His bibliography is a testament to the diversity of things he’s wanted to say. If you enjoy short fiction, I hope that our discussions in Being Michael Swanwick will lead you to interesting discoveries. The dozen books that gather Michael Swanwick’s short stories are, by definition, collections–but, because of his phenomenal range, they double as anthologies. Open up any of his literary boxes, and you’ll find he’s thinking far outside it.
Why There’s No New Scalzi Novel Next Year, Why You’ll Get Two New Scalzi Novels in 2025, and What I’ll Be Up To in 2024
Let’s address that first thing first: Yes, I am currently writing a novel! Also, that novel will not be out in 2024. The reason is actually pretty simple: The date in 2024 that Tor had available for my book to come out was the first Tuesday in November. Which, if you check your calendar, is Election Day here in the United States. Do I want to have a book come out on Election Day in 2024? No. No, I do not. And neither does Tor! We both very enthusiastically agreed that we didn’t want that date.
Before you raise an objection, here’s a fun fact: I’ve already had a book released on Election Day in the United States. It was my very first book, The Rough Guide to Money Online. The release date was intentional: Rough Guides figured after the election there would be a lull in news, and it would mean that they could get me on TV to promote my little book. It was a great theory, which rammed hard into the fact that the Election Day in question was the one in 2000, when the election wasn’t settled for weeks. The news shows were jammed up, my media tour was cancelled after two days because no one had time for me, and the book flopped, not just because of the election (there was also the collapse of the Web 1.0), but also because of the election.
Now, the 2020 election, you may recall, was quite contentious, and the 2024 election, pairing as it likely will the same two contestants, is also likely to be quite contentious. I know the sort of book I am writing, and as much as I think it’s lovely and fun and that the people who enjoyed The Kaiju Preservation Society and Starter Villain will really enjoy this one too, I am also aware it’s absolutely the wrong fucking novel to go up against the 2024 election, especially if things go wonky and sour, which, again, they may very well do – indeed, let me suggest that at least one of the likely candidates for president in 2024 absolutely wants things to go wonky and sour.
So: If you’re an American citizen, please vote in 2024, and also, please understand why there’s no novel from me that year.
That second thing second: The novel I’m currently writing, which was originally scheduled for 2024, will now come out in February of 2025. It doesn’t have an official title yet (you’ll find out what that is when I turn the novel in) and I want to be cagey on the details for now. I will say that, like KPS and Villain, it takes place in contemporary time and has its cast of characters dealing with an extremely high concept plot device. I’ve taken to thinking of it as the final installment of an unintentional and otherwise unrelated trilogy of “weird shit, modern times” novels that I didn’t even know I was writing until I started on this novel and was, like, oooooh, I see where my brain has been recently. To be clear, KPS, Villain and this book are not in each other’s universes. They, do however, vibe pretty well together.
But what’s this about another novel in 2025? I hear you ask. To which I respond with a question of my own: Hey, did you know that 2025 marks the 20th anniversary of Old Man’s War? Well, it does! And what better way to celebrate the 20th year of the existence of the Old Man’s War universe than with a new story within those worlds? No better way, I say!
And so: In late 2025, expect Old Man’s War #7.
To answer your immediate questions: No, no title yet for this either, since (among other things), I have to finish a whole other novel before I get to this one. Also, I don’t want to reveal plot details, except to say that like The Human Division and The End of All Things, there will be a time jump from previous novels. It is likely that some characters from previous novels will appear in this new one, but who they are and in what capacity I’m not prepared to share, in no small part since I’m still in “moving bits around to see how they play together” mode.
In fact, the answer to any question you might have at this point involving this particular book, other than I know I’m going to write it, and that it will be out in late 2025, is “uhhhh… I dunno, I guess we’ll see.” Except that I feel pretty confident in saying that it will fit extremely well into the OMW universe generally, since, you know, I’ve had that universe in my head for two decades now, and have a pretty good idea how it works.
So those are the two novels you’ll see from me in 2025: Another book similar to KPS and Villain, and another book in the OMW universe. In other words, a pretty good year for Scalzi books.
Third things third: So, what does that mean for me in 2024? Well, there’s likely to be a novella from me, in some form or another – I’m still working out the contractual details of that, but when those get nailed down and the thing is written I will let you know here. So you will not be entirely without new fiction from me next year. Again, no details about the novella, except to say it’s definitely science fiction (there will be aliens in it!) and it’s going to be funny. I think 2024 will need some funny in it, even if I don’t want to plant it directly on Election Day itself. Also, I have a couple of cool things coming that I can’t talk about yet but will happen next year. Stay tuned!
Aside from that? Well, I’m writing a film column in Uncanny Magazine through the next year, so you’ll see me there every other month. Plus I’ll be here and on the social media that is not the former Twitter, so you’ll not be lacking in things to read from me. To the delight of some and the annoyance of others, I never really completely go away.
Also, 2024 is a year where I plan to start the ball rolling on a number of long-term projects that won’t see fruition until later, some possibly a few or even several years into the future. I have writing to do but I don’t have a huge amount of promotional or travel commitments, like, for example, a book tour that stretches across two months. So that’s more time for working on cool things that will pay off, uh, eventually! What I’m saying is, it’s good to have an occasional year where I mostly stay at home.
(I do have events in 2024, mind you: The Confusion convention in Detroit for January, Boskone in Boston for February, the Joco Cruise in March, and so on. I’ll be updating my Upcoming Events soon. But doing one event a month is fine, in terms of time/effort, etc. It does leave me time for strategy and planning, and, you know, writing.)
There you have it: A basic precis on my literary 2024 and 2025, and what’s coming out and when. It’s nice — for me! — to know what I’m up to for the next 24 months. I thought you would like to know, too.
How is the ocean like space? Naomi Kritzer knows, and in her new novel, Liberty’s Daughter, she uses those similarities to the advantage of her tale – and for the adventure her protagonist finds herself on.
Liberty’s Daughter takes place on a seastead – a collection of micronations in human-made structures floating in international waters. I usually tell people that seasteading is real-ish, in the sense that people are actually trying to do it. I don’t usually go on to explain that I first heard the term from my sister, who went to college with Patri Friedman, the main person responsible for popularizing the idea.
Patri describes the idea as “homesteading the high seas” and the thing that’s absolutely fabulous about a seastead from a science fiction storytelling perspective is that the whole concept is just plausible enough to allow for a near-future setting that’s almost as bonkers as a space station. You can have isolation, totally dysfunctional self-governance, defiance of any and all current legal standards, and deeply weird oligarchs running stuff, and you don’t even have to go to the moon. You can stick it on a decaying cruise ship anchored in international waters.
The problem, of course, is cruise ships require a lot of diligent maintenance. Oceans are full of salt, which will corrode every surface it touches, from the bottom of your boat to the instrumentation inside. Preventing a seastead from sinking into the sea would require endless manual labor. Who would do this work? For that matter, which people on a seastead would cook the meals, wash the dishes, care for young children, scrub the toilets? If there’s a tourism industry, who launders the towels? If there’s a hospital, deals with the bedpans?
The people who fantasize about life on a seastead are mostly imagining themselves with a lot more personal power than they have as citizens of the US (or whatever country they live in) – they’re not fantasizing about scrubbing floors. I started thinking about the people on the seastead who would have much less power – because they’re living in precarcity or even debt slavery, or (as in the case of the protagonist) because they’re the teenage child of someone who can wield money and influence to control her.
As I was pondering the setting and possible characters, one of the employees at my grocery store vanished, and everyone pretended she’d never existed.
I did my grocery shopping on the same day every week, and I’d gotten into the habit of seeking out a particular checker because I liked chatting with her. Then one week she wasn’t there, and the next week she didn’t come back. And when I asked about her, the other employees acted like they had no idea who I was talking about, which was surreal. This woman had worked at that store for years. I assumed that she’d been fired, and that everyone was afraid to talk about it, and since I didn’t want to get anyone else in trouble, I stopped asking.
But that weird, frustrating puzzle fell into the world I’d been piecing together: Beck, the teenage girl protagonist, became a detective hired out of desperation to investigate a missing person case. A teenager who grew up sheltered, who felt safe because of who she was, Beck could refuse to take the hints that she’s not supposed to keep asking. Instead, she turned her curiosity and privilege towards the task of finding the missing woman, coming face-to-face with aspects of life on the seastead that she’d never looked at closely before. Everything fell into place.
About a year later, I asked again about the woman who’d disappeared – I had a new regular checker and a bunch of time had passed.
“Oh, yeah,” the guy said. “Management moved her to a different store because she had a stalker.”
And suddenly all my assumptions about her were flipped on their head. Of course I got stonewalled – they didn’t know that I wasn’t the person stalking her! Their silence was not fear; it was protectiveness. Even management wasn’t the bad guys here – they hadn’t fired her, they’d moved her somewhere she’d be safer.
In the years since I started writing this, several people have attempted to create seasteads, including a small group of crypto bros who bought a cruise ship during the pandemic (and discovered that there are actually an astonishing number of regulations for cruise ships). There’s now a book about the “Free Town Project,” in which libertarians moved into and took over Grafton, New Hampshire; the result was the town winding up overrun with bears.
The irony of the grocery store checker’s disappearance inspiring this story is that I initially assumed it was a story about capitalism finding someone disposable – instead, it was a story about a community pulling together to protect someone vulnerable. And in fact as Beck’s story continued, it also became a story about a community pulling together – the workers form a union, and when things go very wrong and the people with money and power use it to get the hell off their island, the people left behind start trying to solve things together.
I am, as you may have guessed, not a libertarian. But I have a lot of faith in people and community and that’s a big part of what this book wound up being about.
I’ve always been drawn to puzzles, to books that keep you guessing what’s really going on, that make you try to decipher the hidden currents under the surface. Fittingly, the idea of Refractions started as a simple puzzle: a colony planet gone mysteriously silent. But as I probed deeper, the story developed into a nesting doll of puzzles, each new question revealing a deeper truth about the characters and their world.
On the outside, there is the colony: after two decades of apparently thriving, Bethesda, the first human settlement in another solar system, has ceased all communication. With multiple colony ships already on the way to other planets, each carrying thousands of hibernating passengers, a volunteer crew rushes out to investigate what happened on Bethesda, lest the same fate befalls the other settlers.
But that brought me to another, more compelling puzzle. With the colony light years away, the volunteers will spend decades in hibernation. By the time they return, everybody they knew and loved will be gone. Who would volunteer for such a mission? Or maybe what they are really doing is running away?
The answer to this question was the spark that gave life to the idea: a crew of strangers, each harbouring their own secrets, each running away from their past, hoping that by the time they return their sins will be forgotten.
Now I was keen to figure out who they were and what they were leaving behind. I’ll be honest, it took several tries. I’d known early on that the story will be near-future, set in a world transformed by the effects of climate change and unchecked capitalism. But finding the right protagonist to carry the story took me several tries—until I found Nathalie.
Nathalie Hart is one of those trying to escape—her pain, her grief, and her guilt for the events that killed her family. A skilled orbital pilot, she has no trouble securing a spot on the rescue mission—especially since she is Canadian, a neutral nation in a world divided by a new cold war between fundamentalist Christian America and China, the space-technology superpower.
Her hopes for a respite are shattered when she wakes from hibernation to find the captain killed in a sabotage and the international crew descending into accusations and conspiracies. Traumatised and desperately under-qualified, she is now in command of a crew divided along the lines of national loyalties and personal conflicts. And it is up to her to bring them together before time runs out for the five thousand passengers on a dying colony ship waiting above Bethesda.
Nathalie must dig deep to find the strength and skill she will need—and in the end, it’s her pain and her guilt that help her rise to the challenge. She joined the mission to forget and atone, and she will do everything to save the lives now in her hands.
Yet there are more layers still in this nesting doll of puzzles. Why would anyone hire such a volatile crew? Was it an unlucky oversight—or were they preselected for some sinister purpose?
And with that question, I have found the kernel, the big idea at the heart of Refractions. There are secrets on Bethesda that someone is desperate to protect—and they will use the crew’s own animosities and prejudice to sabotage the mission. At its thematic core, it is a story about manipulation, about people being set up against each other so they are too busy infighting to notice the strings that pull on them. It is also a story of unchecked capitalism and weaponised prejudice, of propaganda and disinformation used as tools to divide and control.
I wish I could say this was a purely science-fictional idea, far from the realities of today’s world, but it’s enough to turn on the news channel to find the same story played out live in front of us. When I first conceived the idea, I was a Polish immigrant living through the anti-immigrant Brexit propaganda in the UK. This is a story as old as time: the powerful manipulating the populace into blaming the “other” for all the ailments of the society they control, fabricating conflict through lies and prejudice so we’re too busy fighting our neighbours to notice who really benefits from the discord.
It’s difficult to write about prejudice without showing prejudice. This is a challenging subject, especially as the national lines coincide with ethnicity—even though the same heritage may be shared by people now serving under different flags. It was important for me to show how easy it would be to succumb to disinformation preying on real fears.
In the end, it’s up to Nathalie to transcend her flaws and prejudices. Only then will she be able to see the larger truth, notice the strings of manipulation, and find a way to cut herself free. And if she manages to bring the feuding crew together, they might yet solve Bethesda’s puzzle.
I had traveling to do today, which kept me from updating earlier. To make up for it, please accept this really lovely traditional song, sung by boygenius, who are accompanied by Ye Vagabonds, in honor of Sinead O’Connor. It’s a stunner.
Good night, and joy be with you all.
Elon Musk, the most unfathomably insecure and pathetic billionaire the world has ever seen, has gone mask-off antisemite, and that means that while I had already reduced my participation on the former Twitter, now I’m off it entirely. I’m keeping the account so that no one can swoop in and take a screenname that’s been associated with me for the last fifteen years, but no more posting, and no more participation. Until and unless the service is sold to someone who isn’t Musk (and possibly even then, depending), I’m out, I’m through, I’m done.
Some quick notes:
1. If you are still on the former Twitter, this is not an implicit condemnation of you. Remember I was on it until today; I put up with a lot of Musk’s bullshit because the site still had value to me as a promotional vehicle. Others may still be on it because their communities are there or because they’re determined to outlast Musk or because it’s still an easy way to reach a mass audience, or whatever. That’s fine. It’s simply that for me, the point at which Musk’s toxicity overwhelmed any utility the site had for me was right around noon. I realized I just couldn’t shrug my way through it anymore.
Also, I’m not going to debate or argue the utility of staying on or leaving the former Twitter with anyone. This is a personal decision made for personal reasons that have to do with me and me alone. If you agree with the action, great. If you don’t, that’s fine too. If you want to give me guff for it, for whatever reason, you can go fuck yourself.
2. It does mean walking away from almost 200k followers there, but you know what, at this point I’m fine with that. I suspect a significant portion of those followers are no longer on the site (or were rarely on it) to begin with, and as for the others, at this point the chance they’re not also following me on Bluesky/Threads/Mastodon/Facebook/Instagram (or, uhhhhh, here) is pretty slim. I have thousands or tens of thousands of followers on each of those other social media sites (and here) anyway. I’m not hurting for my ability to get the word out about what I’m doing or thinking. And also, you know. When I put stuff out, I have a major publisher telling people about it. I’m not difficult to find, or to find out about. I’ll be fine.
3. Also, and vaguely related, the fact that I have tens of thousands of followers on each of Bluesky/Threads/Mastodon/Facebook makes the point that Twitter is not essential and is replaceable for the aspect of social media that revolves around self-promotion. The fact that friends are now elsewhere and I chat with them in those places also means it’s not essential and is replaceable for social interaction. For me, there’s nothing that Twitter does I can’t do elsewhere. This was always true, but it’s worth reminding myself about, and you might benefit from that reminder too.
4. Leaving the former Twitter is also at this point more than a little bit of a relief. I’ve noted above that I restricted my use of it recently to just career news and updates, but even doing that has become an increasing depressing and unpleasant chore, like having a storefront in a part of town where the windows are increasingly soaped up and the sidewalks are full of trash, and there are a bunch of Nazis on the corner, leering at cars driving by. It was no fun, in a place where I used to have fun. It was, finally, time to go. So I’ve gone.
If it’s stopped being fun for you, too, consider leaving as well. There are better places to be.
I wanted the story I was promised.
When I was a senior in college and working on my thesis, I read Patricia Terry’s Poems of the Elder Edda. It includes not only the text of the Poetic Edda, but several other Old Norse poems written in a similar style — one of which is called “The Waking of Angantyr.” It’s a dialogue between a young woman named Hervor and the ghost of her father, Angantyr, from whom she demands his cursed sword. According to Terry, Hervor “wants the sword as an instrument of vengeance.” When I studied the language for a semester as part of my thesis prop, my textbook, E.V. Gordon’s An Introduction to Old Norse, concurred: Hervor, he says, is “determined to avenge her father and her uncles.”
Awesome, I thought. I need the rest of that story.
So I hunted down the saga in which “The Waking of Angantyr” appears: no simple task, since it’s far from the most well-known of the Norse sagas. In fact, I only know of one translation, by Christopher Tolkien — yes, the son of that Tolkien. Acquiring a copy from the 2001 internet was easier said than done, but with it finally in my hands, I eagerly sat down for a tale of ghosts, a cursed sword, and bloody vengeance.
I didn’t get it.
The saga (called The Saga of King Heiðrek the Wise in Tolkien’s translation) is . . . how shall I put this . . . kind of a mess. For starters, it’s probably several unrelated texts in a trench coat, all of them newer than “The Waking of Angantyr.” Despite one of the other titles being Hervarar saga, i.e. Hervor’s Saga, Hervor only appears in about a quarter of the story. And while I did get a few cool bits from that — like her dressing up as a man and going around as a viking (raider) — what happens after she gets her father’s cursed sword from his ghost is, uh, basically nothing? She continues on for about a page, then goes home and has a kid, who is the centerpiece of the next, mostly unrelated story.
In fact, Hervor can’t really avenge her father and uncles. They were killed by two men, Hjálmar and Örvar-Oddr, and of those two, Hjálmar has already died of the wounds Angantyr gave him. As for Örvar-Oddr, he’s got his own saga to go die in, not at Hervor’s hands. (There’s a prophecy that his horse will kill him. The horse is long dead when Örvar-Oddr trips over its skull, causing a venomous snake to come out and bite him. Never let it be said that Norse sagas are unwilling to let their heroes meet incredibly ignominious ends.) What Terry and Gordon described to me is the general vibe of the poem, to be certain, but not the surrounding text.
I wrote a short story based on “The Waking of Angantyr” while in the middle of my thesis, a piece that basically just retold the poem in prose form. But that wasn’t enough. I’d been promised a cursed sword and bloody vengeance, and if the Norse weren’t going to supply me with those, then I would just have to do it myself.
You’ll find the chapter titled “The Waking of Angantyr” at the midpoint of the novel. It was my starting point, but it’s not the start of the book; instead I spun my threads both forward and backward from that central node. Much of it is wholly new cloth, but details from the saga got woven in here and there; if you happen to be one of the half-dozen people who know the text, you’ll see names you recognize. I also worked in nods to some of the other sagas, including a spurious etymology for Angantyr’s sword, Tyrfing: in my story that translates to “Serpent’s Tooth,” in homage to Örvar-Oddr’s dead horse’s skull’s resident snake.
This doesn’t take place in the world of the sagas, though. While I drew on all the preparation for my thesis in building a Norse-flavored setting, there’s no Norway or Iceland here, no Odin or Loki. I wanted a world where I could set the rules, in ways that supported the story I wanted to tell.
The Waking of Angantyr is in several ways an unusual book for me. It’s grimmer and bloodier than most of my work, and it’s also older: I wrote the original draft of this in 2003, after my thesis-induced burnout had healed. It went more or less directly onto the shelf when I sold a different novel and the agent I acquired admitted she’d be a bad advocate for this kind of fantasy, and my career proceeded in other directions, the Onyx Court and the Memoirs of Lady Trent and my Rook & Rose collaboration with Alyc Helms. But I kept casting sidelong glances at that shelf, thinking about my Viking revenge epic . . . and many years after drafting it, I took it down, dusted it off, gave it a thorough scrub with the revision brush, and sent it out into the world.
Because dammit, that poem deserves a better story around it than the one history supplied.
Usually in the second week of October I make mention that I use WordPress and that I find it extremely simple to use, easy to manage and is a thing that I can endorse for anyone who is looking to have their own space here on the Internet. However, this October I was traveling all over the place (the second week of that month I had one day at home in-between being in Wichita and NYC). So this year, my annual unsolicited endorsement of WordPress falls in the middle of November, because I am finally home.
However, do not let the relative lateness of the annual endorsement lead you to believe I am less enthusiastic about WordPress as both a blogging tool and a foundation for one’s own home on the web. Indeed, if this last year and the collapse of the former Twitter have taught us anything, it’s that having a space of one’s own online, not at the whim of a massively insecure and hateful billionaire (or, honestly most anyone else) is an essential thing. Social media sites may come and go, but your own site can, like, mine, outlast several generations of these increasingly ephemeral places.
In addition to 2023 being the 25th anniversary of Whatever existing, it also marks the 15th anniversary of me hosting the blog on WordPress. As a host for the site, WordPress has been damn near bulletproof; in those fifteen years the site has been down only for a few hours in aggregate, and rarely more than a few minutes at any one time (which have been rare enough to be remarkable in themselves). However, even if I didn’t use WordPress to host the blog, I would still use their software for the site. It’s simple enough to just bang out a post but complex enough that I can do all sorts of things with it, with hundreds of themes to skin the site, and widgets and background processes to further get the site to my liking. It has a lot to recommend it, either with or without WordPress as the hosting service.
As I note every year, WordPress neither asks for nor expects me to make this annual endorsement. I do it because I appreciate the service and the software, and think if you’re thinking about having your site, and you should, WordPress is a very good way to do it.
See you all again in a year (more or less), with another updated endorsement.
We sometimes say that someone with a talent has been “blessed,” but what happens when blessings are more real and concrete than just a note of admiration for skills? Sharon Shinn has been thinking about blessing for the world in which her new novel Whispering Wood exists, and is here now to share her thoughts.
In real life, I tend to be a skeptic. While I’ll occasionally read my horoscope or search for a four-leaf clover, I don’t really believe in astrology, crystals, soulmates, reincarnation, ghosts, or wishing on a star.
But in fiction, I love portents, prophecies, past lives, and predestination. In my own books, I’ve devised implants that light up when soulmates meet for the first time, invented a portal that takes the chosen one to another dimension, and designed solstice rites that make dreams come true.
In my newest book, Whispering Wood, I’ve created a world where the dominant ritual is based on blessings. There are 43 of them, stamped on metal coins and available at every temple. Eight each are aligned with one of the five elements of wood, water, air, earth, and fire, and three are extraordinary blessings that transcend the elements. At birth, everyone is gifted with three random blessings that in some way mold them for the rest of their lives, but they can go to a temple at any time and pull additional coins whenever they need guidance for some risky venture or troubling situation.
As an author, I love the blessings because they give me so many opportunities to illustrate a character’s personality (surely he’s going to live up to his blessing of loyalty before the book is out) or foreshadow events (there must be a reason she carries the glyph for power).
But all types of prophecies and portents are equally useful for a writer. They can set up expectations for a character arc. (Will he be sorry he scoffed at the notion of true love?) They can lay the groundwork for an upcoming plot twist. (Why is a blonde woman showing up in the cards laid out by the fortune-teller?) They can create a sense of dread. (This girl has been murdered in every former life, so how soon is she going to be facing a crazed killer?)
And they can force characters to decide what actions to take next. Do they court disaster by defying the will of the gods? Do they teach themselves to lie when they have been fated to only tell the truth? Do they try to circumvent the prophecy, outrun the curse, arm themselves with protective magic? Maybe it sounds counterintuitive, but when both the readers and the characters know what the future holds—or what it’s supposed to hold—everything gets a lot more interesting.
Another reason I like to add metaphysical components to my stories is that they illustrate something about the worlds that I’ve created. Human societies are rich with rituals both silly and solemn, and I want to add some of that richness to my novels. In real life, we might knock on wood, blow the seeds off a dandelion, consult tarot cards, plan weddings, attend funerals, or follow precise and complex ceremonies to choose a new pope or crown a new monarch. These traditions are the bejeweled and golden threads that weave through the tapestries of our lives.
Similarly, when I have my characters pray to a god or honor a superstition, I hope to make them seem more real, more relatable. I also hope to give readers a way to slide into the story—to make them feel that this imaginary place is just on the other side of a very thin veil.
The blessings have afforded me an easy way to do that. Whispering Wood is the fifth in a series that launched in 2010. For the past few years, I’ve drawn blessings every Monday morning, posted them on my Facebook page, and invited my readers to share the coins they’ve pulled for themselves. It’s a made-up ritual, sure, but there’s a sort of comfort in it. It creates a small community that bridges both the actual and the invented worlds. It gives us all a few touchstones we can use as we try to navigate the coming week.
But I suppose there’s another reason I find fantasy rituals so appealing. Humans are drawn to fiction because it imposes a rational narrative on a random and often bewildering existence. So often, life simply doesn’t make sense. As with any good story, there’s a beginning, middle, and end, but the throughline isn’t clear. How did this love affair go awry? Why did this person die so young? What was the point of this meandering detour into a career that didn’t work out? There are no obvious markers for the trails we should be following, and there are no clear lessons to be drawn from our disjointed lives. While many people believe that “everything happens for a reason,” I tend to think that, sometimes, things just happen.
That’s why stories have such power. Because they do make sense. They do create order. They take the broken, scattered stones of human experience and turn them an exquisite mosaic.
Our real-life rituals help us carve patterns from the haphazard nature of ordinary existence. Our fictional rituals do the same. They offer guidance. They provide structure. They make us believe that—even if we can’t see it—the design is there. All we have to do is make it through the rest of the story.
Last year, the band Bad Omens came out with an album called The Death of Peace of Mind, and I didn’t discover it until recently. Ever since I found it, I’ve been pretty hooked on them. I thought no song could top the one that the album is named for, “THE DEATH OF PEACE OF MIND”, but it turns out there’s a song on the album I like even more than that one. It’s called “Like A Villain”, and I’ve been playing it pretty much on repeat the past few weeks.
Here it is, for your listening enjoyment:
Honestly, it’s really the chorus and the super sick drums that do it for me. It’s just such a bop but in a metal type of way.
I hope you enjoy it, and I also recommend checking out “Just Pretend,” “Nowhere To Go,” and of course, “THE DEATH OF PEACE OF MIND”.
Let me know your thoughts on this song, or the other ones I recommended. Or have you listened to their previous two albums? Let me know in the comments, and have a great day!