An Interesting Song I Found

Hey, everyone! As I’ve been packing and sorting clothes and junk, I’ve been listening to a lot of music, and I stumbled upon a song I think is really interesting. It’s got that old sound to it, like it’s from another era of music, but I think it’s really good and I like the lyrics a lot. It’s pretty different from some of the music I’ve posted in the past, so I thought it was worth sharing.

Let me know what you think of it, or if you know of any other songs that have the same sort of vibe this one does. And as always, have a great day!

Gearing Up For Back to School

Hello, everyone! Summer is coming to a close, which means I only have one week left of posting on here. It also means that I move into my dorm next week, and will be starting classes soon after.

Last year, I definitely went overboard on back-to-school clothes and supplies shopping, but that just means I have supplies for this year and don’t have to go out and buy new stuff, so really it was a smart move in the long run, right? Turns out at college you need approximately one pen and one notebook, and that’s only occasionally.

Going back to school has its pros and cons. I mean, I can just walk to any restaurant or store in town, so that’s pretty cool. It’s like a little city, it has everything you could need close by, unlike Bradford, where you have to drive twenty minutes for literally anything. On the downside, I will be living in a dorm, which has communal bathrooms and definitely does not have my huge comfy bed in it, so that sucks. Worst of all, though, I won’t be around the cats. Sugar, Spice, Smudge, and that one that starts with a Z no one remembers. I will miss them all dearly. Another plus, though, is that Miami has therapy dog petting sessions, like, every Monday for an hour, so at least I’ll get the chance to pet some good bois.

Last year, I didn’t join any clubs. I definitely wish I had, and I plan to this semester. Miami has, like, hundreds of clubs, and one I would really like to try out for is one of the singing groups, Just Duet. I wanted to audition last year, but already had plans for when they were holding the auditions, so I didn’t. Also, I’m afraid of rejection, because who isn’t? So, wish me luck! I’m not sure what I’ll sing yet. Oh, and if you would like to hear what they sound like you can check out this video of them that I think is pretty awesome.

So, for the next week, I’ll be busy frantically packing and making a hundred checklists before setting off to Oxford. I’ll also be thinking of what my final few posts should be about.

Do any of you have kids about to go off to their first year of college? Tell me about it in the comments, and as always, have a great day!

View From a Hotel Window, 8/15/18: San Jose

It’s a lovely day in San Jose, despite a certain amount of particulate matter in the air, cause by parts of California being deeply aflame. Here you can see the convention center in which we’ll have Worldcon 76, which starts tomorrow and runs through Monday. It’s nice to be in California again.

Aaaaand now I think I might take a nap.

Learn More About Me: My Favorite Movie

Hey, everyone! Today I thought I’d share something important to me, that being my all-time favorite movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas. Though it is technically Disney, anytime someone asks me what my favorite Disney movie is, I always forget to say The Nightmare Before Christmas, and usually say Mulan or Tangled instead, because I really think of The Nightmare Before Christmas as a Tim Burton movie, which it is, but, y’know.

There’s something about stop motion that I just love, and come to think of it, my love of it probably stemmed from The Nightmare Before Christmas, since I’ve been watching it for as long as I can remember. The Nightmare Before Christmas has some of the most interesting characters I’ve ever seen, and part of that fantastic-ness comes from their design and the way they look overall. Halloween Town is an amazing setting to begin with, and all of the characters that call it home are even cooler looking.

Besides how awesome the visuals are, the soundtrack is to die for. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past several decades, Disney has the greatest songs, like, ever, but the greatest of the great can be found in The Nightmare Before Christmas. Danny Elfman is pretty much the best composer/musician/singer in existence. Though it’s difficult to choose a favorite song out of all the amazing ones on the soundtrack, I’d have to say the best is “Jack’s Lament”, which even if you haven’t seen the movie, is pretty good on its own (you can watch it on YouTube).

This movie has had merch available at places like Hot Topic and F.Y.E. for forever, and believe me when I say I have my fair share of stuff. There’s even video games that came out around 2005 or so.

The Nightmare Before Christmas has been my favorite movie for as long as I can remember, and I’m fairly certain it always will be. I wish I had been able to see it in theaters when it first came out, alas, it was before my time of being alive. Have you seen it before? What are your thoughts on it? What’s your favorite song from it? Is Jack your favorite character? Let me know in the comments, and as always, have a great day!

A Pre-Worldcon Q&A

Tomorrow I head out to San Jose and Worldcon 76, and before I go let me address some questions about it and related things that I’ve been asked online and in real life, through the use of my fictional interlocutor.

That’s me!

Yes, it is. Let’s begin, shall we?

Okay! So, are you nervous yet?

About what?

You’re nominated for the Hugo! For Best Novel!

Okay, and?

Well, are you nervous about winning? Or about not winning?

No.

Why not?

I already have a Best Novel Hugo Award, for Redshirts, and two other Hugos besides. If The Collapsing Empire wins this year, great, I’m Hugo Award winner John Scalzi. If it doesn’t, great, I’m Hugo Award winner John Scalzi. I’m good either way.

Well, okay, but do you want to win?

Sure. I like Hugos, and I like my book, and I would be delighted for my book to be awarded and to have another rocket for the shelf. I’m not going to pretend that I would not find that super cool. But, and this is the thing, wanting to win doesn’t mean I will be disappointed if I don’t win.

That’s hard to believe.

Nah. One, as noted, I’ve already got a best novel Hugo, so I already accrue the social and commercial benefits of that. Two, all the other books nominated this year are really really good, and all of them are worthy of the Hugo. I’m not going to be disappointed that a worthy book has won the Hugo. As a side benefit, most of the nominees are friends, and all are colleagues. I like it when friends and colleagues get recognition for their work. I will stomp and cheer and clap for whoever wins, and be genuinely happy for them.

That’s… a suspiciously healthy response.

Well, you know. I work on having healthy responses. They don’t always come 100% naturally, I assure you. Also, I’m not going to lie, it helps that Empire’s done very well commercially, and has already won the Locus Award. I’m cool.

Well, do you think The Collapsing Empire will win the Hugo? 

Nope, I think N.K. Jemisin is gonna three-peat with The Stone Sky.

Why is that?

Uhhh, because the Broken Earth trilogy is an absolutely groundbreaking achievement (pun entirely intended) in modern science fiction and fantasy? Don’t you agree?

I guess I do since I’m actually you? 

Yes. Precisely. But even if you weren’t in fact me, you would still have to acknowledge that Nora’s work on this series is stunning, and deserving of every accolade that’s been sent her way. To be clear, saying this is not a diminution of any of the other nominated works or their authors, including me and my novel. As I said, every novel on the ballot is eminently Hugo-worthy and could win, depending on the calculus of the voters as a group. But individually, The Stone Sky is worthy, and as a part of a larger whole, it’s a remarkable work.

Hugos aside, what is the event of yours you’re most looking forward to at the Worldcon?

Well, on my schedule, The Retro Hugo party on Thursday, because at the end of it (around 10pm) I get to DJ an 80s dance and it is going to be absolutely on fire, my friend. Metaphorically. We will hopefully not actually set anything aflame.

You’re not the most intuitive person to DJ a dance.

What is that supposed to mean?

Look in the mirror, Mr. Chunky-Middle-Aged-Science-Fiction-Nerd-Dude-In-An-Aloha-Shirt.

Point taken. That said, I actually studied dance in high school, and met my wife because she admired my dancing skills, and we still go dancing when we can. Plus, in the late 80s and early 90s I was a professional music critic — it’s one way I paid for college — so I have this particular era of dance music wired. Also, now I’ve DJed at conventions and nerd-related events for years.

How did that get started?

One year I was a GoH at a convention, and they had an 80s dance, and it was terrible because the DJ was, like, nineteen and wasn’t alive when the 80s happened and was playing not great music, almost like at random. And I was all “I WAS HERE TO DANCE AND I CAN’T DANCE TO THIS AND YOU SHOULD HAVE HAD ME DJ THIS DAMN THING” and they were all “Cool, come back and do it next year,” and I did, just to make the point. And it was fun. And I’ve been doing it since.

I’m not sure I’m ready to handle you gyrating on the dance floor, though.

You’ll just have to deal with it, my friend. But honestly if you can’t handle that, you can see me, somewhat more static, on some panels and a reading.

Speaking of Worldcon programming in general, anything else you want to add about this year’s programming fracas?

Not really. There were problems with the initial program slate, people complained, it got fixed, and now most people seem happy with it, and honestly, that’s kind of how it’s supposed to work, yes? Problems arise with every Worldcon (and every convention, if we’re going to be honest about it) and then the issue is, do they get resolved? This time, they got resolved. Hooray! Credit accrues to the convention and all the people working on programming. They did good.

Some people still aren’t happy.

Those would be the people, who are not coming to Worldcon, who were thrilled to see it stumble, and when the convention managed to keep going without falling on its face, complained about how it kept its balance, yes?

Pretty much.

Fuck those dudes.

Also, you know there are some protests scheduled in front of the San Jose Convention Center on Saturday? 

Yes. As I understand it there will be four main groups: a likely very small contingent of self-promoting shitheels who disingenuously picked a protest subject to mask their desperate desire for attention of any sort; a likely larger but still small group of racist fascist assholes who glommed on to the first group’s plan; a probably larger group of anti-fascist protestors who will likely scare the shit out of the first two groups; and probably some police.

Think there will be a riot?

I seriously doubt it.

How are you going to deal with the protests?

Since my hotel is connected to the convention center and I’m busy with programming the entire time the protest is scheduled, my plan is to ignore it entirely, and I suspect other convention-goers will do the same. There are many entrances to the convention center, including ones that are ADA-compliant, away from where the protests are scheduled. So they will be easily avoided, and then they will be over.

No deeper thoughts on it?

Nope. I’m not obliged to take seriously a protest I know the initiators don’t take seriously. I have better things to do today, and will have better things to do on Saturday.

Are you looking forward to Worldcon?

I am! As with most years, I’m mostly going to hang out with friends, who will be there in abundance. When I’m not on programming, I will mostly be catching up with my pals. It’s going to be a blast.

And then you go home, yes?

Not at all! Starting on August 20, Mary Robinette Kowal and I start an epic road trip that takes us from San Jose to Phoenix/Scottsdale (where we have an event at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore on the 21st) and then to Santa Fe (where we have an event at the Cocteau Cinema) and then finally to Albuquerque, where we are guests of honor at Bubonicon 50. Mary is debuting her latest book, The Fated Sky, on this trip, so if you’re anywhere near where we’ll be, come see us!

Sounds like you’ll have a busy couple of weeks.

Yes! Worldcon! An 80s dance! (Probably) not winning a Hugo! A road trip! Another convention! It’s fun being me right now, I have to say.

We Interrupt Your Monday For This Very Important Picture of Smudge

I think we can all agree that this has been a vital and necessary update.

For those of you asking how well Smudge is being assimilated into the Scalzi clowder of cats, the answer is: reasonably well, but not without its problems. Smudge basically has two personality settings at the moment, “adorable” and “asshole,” which is about par of kittens generally, but even more so for him. This duality of his nature has definitely been noted by the other cats, who have varying levels of tolerance for him. Zeus is generally the most tolerant of him, and will wrestle with him for a while before he gets tired of it. Spice will also wrestle with him, for a much shorter period. Sugar is all “I will fucking cut you” when he approaches her for a tussle, and he backs away sensibly. Otherwise, he’s fearless and underfoot, which again is to expected in a kitten.

The things Smudge is the most frustrated about is that the other cats go outside and he can’t. He can’t because he’s still too small and could be marked as a snack by local raptors. The other cats go outside to do their thing and also (it has to be said) to be shut of Smudge, who can be relentless in his attention-seeking. But I don’t see giving Smudge outdoor privileges for another several months. We expect him to be a fairly big cat, so it might happen sooner than later. But for now when Smudge makes a beeline for the door, he finds them closed before he can get to them — or if he’s at the door when it’s opened he’s picked up before he can escape. It’s frustrating for him, but better alive and frustrated then a snack for a hawk.

And this has been your Smudge update for the day. Thank you for your attention.

Kayaking at Lodi Lake

Hello, everyone! I hope y’all’s weekend has been awesome so far! My week has been pretty uneventful, but today I actually did something fun and exciting! I got to go kayaking at Lodi Lake with my Cali family.

I’ve only been kayaking a couple of times before, and each time my arms get insanely sore, but I always have a great time! I’ve never not had fun kayaking, it’s so great. It’s very rare that I enjoy physical activity of any sort, but it makes sense that I like kayaking so much because of my love of water.

Lodi Lake is insanely pretty. I thought it was just a little lake at first, but it actually goes on for a really long time, more like a river, really. There were wild raspberries growing along the side, tons of trees and tall grass galore, and we passed several beautiful Lodi homes that were probably millions of dollars. The water is actually much colder than I would’ve guessed, but that didn’t stop us from swimming around! We also passed people on paddle-boards, boats, jet-skis, all sorts of modes of transportation, and literally every single person waved or said hello, it was crazy how friendly everyone was out there!

I also got to see a few adorable water pups, including a German Shepard (one of my favorite kinds of dogs!), so that was super awesome, too.

After kayaking, I went to Habit Burger, per recommendation of some commenters on my In-N-Out post, and I have to say, it’s good, but it’s no In-N-Out. Although, their tempura green beans were delicious!

My arms feel fine as of right now, but I doubt I’ll be able to say the same tomorrow morning. Hopefully you all have an awesome rest of the weekend, I certainly intend to!

New Books and ARCs, 8/10/18

Hey! It’s Friday! And that makes it a very time to show off another stack of new books and ARCs that have come to the Scalzi Compound this week. See anything here that piques your interest? Let us know in the comments.

What You Should Be Watching: YouTube Edition: Binging With Babish

Hey, everyone! Welcome to another edition of “What You Should Be Watching”! And, yes, it’s another YouTube one because, hey, there’s a lot of good content on YouTube, and it’s free, unlike Netflix or whatever, so.

For this edition, I have chosen another cooking channel, mainly because I have only posted like one cooking related thing during my time here because I literally never cook, even though I love it. Aside from that, though, this channel is amazing and I’ve been watching it for a while now, and I think it is super awesome and worth sharing!

Basically, this dude makes specific food that has been shown in certain movies or TV shows, like Matilda’s chocolate cake, the Ultimeatum sandwich from Regular Show, the Michael Scott Pretzel from The Office, burgers from Bob’s Burgers, even a whole episode of foods from Harry Potter. Aside from those videos, he also has Basics With Babish where he teaches actual cooking skills and basics in the kitchen.

Even if you don’t like cooking that much, he’s very entertaining and it’s interesting to see him make things from famous shows and movies. Also, I think he has a nice voice. Check out a couple of my personal favorites:

He also has a cookbook out that you can buy here! Anyways, I hope you give this channel a chance, personally it’s one of my all-time favorites on YouTube. Have a great day!

My Worldcon Schedule

Next week I’ll be at Worldcon 76 in sunny San Jose, California. Want to know my schedule of events while I’m there? Sure you do! This is what it is. All events in the San Jose Convention Center unless otherwise noted:

Thursday, August 16:

8pm: Retro Hugos Party (includes 80s dance), room LL20: All attending members are invited to the Red Carpet Celebration for the 1943 Retrospective Hugo Awards. Immediately following the Red Carpet, you’ll be dancing through the decades as we award Science Fiction’s best for the year 1943. Come for the awards and then stay to rock out, 80s style, with DJ John Scalzi and dance the night away.

Yes, that’s right, I’m DJing an 80s dance, roughly beginning at 10pm! Come and bring everyone you know — it’s gonna be fun.

Saturday, August 18:

1pm: Hugo Finalist Reading, room 211A: Listen to some of this year’s Hugo Novel finalists as they share their work.

This reading includes me, Ann Leckie and Mur Laffery. I’ll likely be reading from The Consuming Fire.

3pm: Keeping Ahead of Tomorrow: Near Future Fiction, room 210F: How do you successfully write near future fiction when reality is constantly catching up? Is it meant to be predictive? A warning? Can your story avoid becoming dated? Panelists explore stories, books, and authors that have done this successfully, as well as the techniques that make it work.

Panel includes me, Sarah Pinsker, Linda Nagata, Annalee Newitz and Chen Quifan.

5pm: Author vs. Fan Ownership, room 210DH: How much do readers “own” the books they read? Writing is a private art intended for public display. Once the story is out of the writer’s hands, it can take on a life of its own–inspiring fandoms, fantheories, and fan interpretations that can vary widely from the author’s. How much do the fans own the work? Can you (and should you) divorce the writer from their fiction? What is the writer’s role in participating via social media in debunking or encouraging fan theories? Can the author be “wrong” about their own work? Our panel of authors and expert fans discuss the various and increasingly complex interactions between work, author, and reader.

Panel includes me, Foz Meadows, Greg Hullender, Renay Williams and Eric Kaplan.

Sunday, August 19:

2pm: Autographing, SJCC: Come get your books signed by me!

8pm: Hugo Ceremony, Grand Ballroom: Come see me probably lose a Hugo, but possibly win one instead!

And that’s my Worldcon 76. You might see me otherwise wandering about. If you do, feel free to say hello to me.

Diego and Lola!

One perk of being in California is I get to hang out with two cool cats, or rather dogs, Diego and Lola! I know it’s only Tuesday, but, hey, it’s been a long week! You deserve these dogs! Lola is younger than Diego by two years, and has the black stripe pattern. Diego has more grey on his muzzle.

Without further ado, Diego and Lola!

My High School Gets It Right

The Webb Schools of California, which is the high school I went to way back when, has updated its handbook with a section for “Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Students” and as far as I can see it gets it right — establishing explicitly that Webb students have a right to identify their own gender and to be called by the names and pronouns they choose, and that the school will work with them to accommodate their choices with dignity and respect. The relevant section of the handbook is here (and is immediately followed by a robust harassment and discrimination policy, which I also applaud). Note I am a cisgender hetrosexual so there may be things I miss, but to the extent I know about about this stuff, this is pretty great.

It makes me proud of my school, and it also shows the distance it’s come since I graduated there more than 30 years ago. In 1987, the gay students in our school were not out, and would not have been comfortable being out; likewise being trans or otherwise non-conforming would have been difficult. 1987 was a different time, which is neither a defense or an excuse, but is a small part of an explanation. I was mostly oblivious at the time to which schoolmates of mine were gay or non-conforming, and these days it makes me sad to think that their experience with our high school, which was positive and life-changing for me, was not everything it should have been for them.

I like the fact my high school now recognizes that not every one of its students is going to have an identity that fits comfortably in a box, and is willing to work with them so that their high school educational experience is fulfilling to them. I don’t expect Webb to execute on this perfectly at all times — my high school is full of people, and people are fallible on a daily basis — but the policy has been set, and people now know what they’re expected to live up to and work toward. That’s a good place for my school to be. I’m glad it’s there, now, for its students today.

The Greatest Burgers In the World

The real reason I have come to California is for one thing and one thing only: In-N-Out. A.K.A. the greatest burger place ever. No burger place, nay, no fast food place can compare to the glorious burger joint known as In-N-Out. It is truly a shame that they are only on the Western part of the country, but that makes them all the more special when I get to come to this side of the country.

Their menu is small, only a couple of items to choose from, but each item is perfect in every way. My personal favorite thing to order is a cheeseburger, animal style. Their sauce is amazing, an absolute revolution in burger technology. Yes, I know it’s pretty much just Thousand Island sauce, but it works, and it’s amazing.

If you haven’t had In-N-Out before, and you have the opportunity to, DO IT. And get a cheeseburger. If you don’t get the cheeseburger animal style, at least get the fries animal style. Or both! Both is good.

To be completely fair, though, the fries are generally undersalted. This is why I recommend them animal style. They’re really good when it comes to texture and done-ness, but yeah, needs more salt. HOWEVER, this is the only fault I have found with In-N-Out.

So, yes, try all you wish to convince me that Whataburger or Five Guys is better, but you shall ultimately fail because I know in my heart what is true.

 

An August Hemi-Demi-Semi Hiatus

So, I don’t know if you know this, but next month will mark the 20th anniversary of the existence of Whatever. This is a fact that among other things is causing me both practical and existential reflection on what this place is, and what it means to me, and what is the best way to keep doing it moving forward, particularly in an age where “blogs” are not the center of online gravity that they used to be. To be clear, the site isn’t going anywhere — I’m not thinking of shutting it down or not writing here or such. But I am doing a serious think about what I want this place to be, for me, and for others.

Also, this August I’m traveling quite a bit — to San Jose for Worldcon 76, where The Collapsing Empire is a finalist for the Hugo, and then the weekend after that to Albuquerque, where Mary Robinette Kowal and I are Guests of Honor at Bubonicon. So for two weeks this month I am entirely out of pocket with travel and events and seeing in the real world people that I like spending time with. This isn’t a bad thing! But it does have an effect on my online presence.

Also also, in a larger sense it’s time for me to have a think about my overall time management — how to balance things I like doing and things I have to do and the things I want to do, along with the day-to-day aspects of, you know, actual life. The last couple of years have not been great for how I allot my days and energy, which is also not great because the last couple of years have been some of my busiest. It’s great to be busy as a writer! But not so much when you’re exhausting yourself because you’re not working efficiently with your time.

All of which explain why I’m declaring the rest of August to be a Hemi-Demi-Semi Hiatus month. I’m gonna take a step back for some introspection and reorganization, followed by a bunch of travel, followed by a smidgen more introspection and reorganization before we dive into September.

What does this hemi-demi-semi hiatus mean for you, the Whatever reader?

* No Big Idea pieces for the rest of August (my workflow for these pieces is a key thing I need to work on);

* Not a huge number of thinky pieces from me. I expect mostly to post updatery (Worldcon/Bubonicon schedules, book-related stuff) and pictures of sunsets and cats. I’ll post other stuff if the mood strikes me, but I’m not expecting the mood to strike me much.

* Athena will be continuing her internship and posting, but is also winding down her presence (she goes back to school this month). Enjoy her thoughts here while you can!

I’m not calling it an official hiatus mostly because I have enough going on that it doesn’t make sense to go away completely, but I also don’t want y’all to worry if you don’t see me posting a lot here between now and September. So: hemi-demi-semi hiatus. It’ll be relaxed around here in August, basically.

And now, to end on a high note: Smudge.

This Song Is In My Head So It Must Be In Yours

Hello, everyone! Tomorrow is Monday, and that is always a bummer. So I thought I would bestow upon y’all this song I recently found to help you make it through. Also, it’s been in my head for about a week and I want others to suffer the ear-worm with me.

I heard this from the Season 7 trailer of Voltron. If you haven’t seen my post on the amazing show known as Voltron, check it out here. You can also see the Season 7 trailer here.

Anyways, this song is fantastic, definitely a new favorite, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

New Books and ARCs, 8/3/18

As we’re easing into the first weekend of the last month of summer, here’s a nice, varied stack of new books and ARCs that have come to the Scalzi Compound. What is making your eyes say “yes”? Tell us all in the comments.

Here’s a Lil’ Something I Wrote For Creative Writing Class

Hello, everyone! Today I will be sharing a short story I just wrote the other night for class. It had to be two and a half pages long, no more, no less, which was kind of difficult to make it fit perfectly into that amount of space, mostly because of pacing issues. This is also a very dialogue heavy story because I wanted it to be more about the interaction between the two characters than anything else.

If you’ll remember a couple weeks ago I posted about what I imagine Death to look like, and how he’s a character in one of my stories. Well, this is not that specific story but I decided to use the same Death character in this piece because I love him.

Anyways, here’s the story, I sincerely hope you enjoy it. Please let me know if you have any questions about Death or anything, I love talking about him! And as always, have a great day!

The Gamification of Rhetoric

I posted a thought earlier on Twitter today and I’ll repost it here in non-tweet form:

It’s really frustrating to me that more people don’t understand that racist/alt-right people have gamified their rhetoric; they’re not interested in discussion, they’re slapping down cards from a “Debate: The Gathering” stack, and the only goal is taking heads.

They gamify their rhetoric because essentially this shit is a low-stake game for them, whereas for other people it’s their actual lives. That’s an advantage they have. If they lose, they shuffle their cards and go on to the next thing. If others lose, their life takes a hit.

And because their rhetorical strategy is essentially card-based, actual knowledge of issues is unimportant and probably a hinderance. They don’t want or need to understand the issues that affect others, they just need you to play their game so they can win.

I don’t have time anymore to diddle about with children who think other people’s lives are some sort of turn-based game, especially when all they want is to hurt other people. And it bothers me more people, especially those with power, don’t understand this shit.

I’m not going to tell people not to engage with these chuckleheads. But don’t engage with them on their terms. Engage with them on your own. One, they hate that, and two, it exposes what they’re doing as a pointless, hateful exercise, and them as awful people.

In sum: Understand what these folks are doing. Refuse to play along. And if you choose, point out to others the hollowness of their game. Because their “game” is to hurt other people, and then go on to the next target. Their game is other people’s lives.

The Big Idea: Michael Mammay

Trust in your friend, colleagues and superiors is a good thing… mostly. In Planetside, author Michael Mammay considers the price of loyalty and the cost of trust, and how both can end up being different than one might expect.

MICHAEL MAMMAY:

The big idea that became Planetside started with a conversation I had with another officer while deployed to Afghanistan. It was early in 2014 and we’d been there six or eight months on that particular tour, and for whatever reason we were sitting in his office one morning and talking about people we’d worked for before, and our list of generals who we’d work for again if they called, no questions asked, no matter the job.

I feel like I need to explain that.

As a relatively senior officer (I had 24 years experience at the time) I’d had the chance to work for some amazing people. Forget the television stereotypes of the uptight or inflexible leader. I’m talking about generals who are so smart, so charismatic, and so driven that you’d literally do anything for them. Leaders who know people, and how they tick. They give an order, and you want to follow. They get the most out of everybody around them, and get everybody moving toward the same goal.

That might sound like a problem, that kind of personal loyalty, but it’s not. The reason that these particular leaders are so good is that you trust them. If they were the type of person who would abuse that trust, then they wouldn’t be on the list in the first place. You trust that they’ll put you in situations where you’re going to be successful, because they know you, your strengths, and your limitations. You trust that they would never ask you to do something that went outside the morals or standards of the organization.

But what if they did?

That was the idea that came to me later that day. It’s not based on any real situation where I saw it happen, but rather the idea that it could happen. What if somebody that you trusted, that you’d do anything for, asked you to do something messed up?

That’s the big idea at the center of Planetside. In the first chapter, Colonel Carl Butler answers a summons from General Serata, one of the generals on his list of people he’d follow anywhere. They’re more than leader/subordinate. They’re friends. So even though he doesn’t understand the details of the mission at the time, when Serata tells him that he’s the right guy to handle it, Butler trusts that. It’s not a job he wants, but he signs on because it’s Serata asking. And he is asking. He could have simply ordered it, but he’s got too much respect for Butler to do that. Butler, while subordinate, is a senior officer who has earned that kind of deference. At the same time, Serata knows him well enough to know that he’ll say yes.

Of course there’s more to the mission than initially meets the eye. I mean, it wouldn’t be much of a book if there wasn’t. As he gets deeper into his investigation and the difficulties present themselves, Butler starts to understand more clearly why Serata chose him for the job. To get to the bottom of things, he needs to be able to maneuver in both the political landscape of the base and in the war-ravaged landscape of the planet itself. He has both skill sets, which is rare. Most people have one or the other. Both locations hold secrets. It’s debatable which is more dangerous.

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Planetside: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Listen to an audio excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow him on Twitter.

Sunset 8/1/18

A good one to start August with, I’d say.