The Universe, in Handy Book Form

Today is the official release date for The Rough Guide to the Universe. That’s in the US, mind you; in the UK, it’s already been out for a month, and I’m mildly confused as to why every single Briton has not gone to purchase their own copy. Well, it’s early yet.

Here in the US, of course, I whole-heartedly suggest that each and every one of you to mob your local bookstore and demand several copies — or, should you be far distant from a local bookstore, to purchase it online — say, here, or here, or even here. (Or, should you like to like to shop online, yet still support local business, here — there’s a couple of extra steps required, like entering my name and then entering your zip code. Still.)

Because I’m the author of the book, I got sent a number of author copies, most of which will be going to family and immediate friends, but to celebrate the release of the book, I thought it would be fun to have a little contest. So here it is: I will give one FREE, autographed copy of The Rough Guide to the Universe to the person who best completes this sentence:

“The Universe is…”

My personal answer to this is “The Universe is where I keep all my stuff,” but I’m sure you have your own personal insights on the matter.

To provide your answer, just drop a line in the comments thread for this entry. Enter as many times as you like BUT the cut-off for entries is 11:59 pm EST Friday, May 16. I will pick the response I find the most interesting and announce the winner on May 19. At which point the winner can contact me by e-mail and then I’ll send out the book.

Which is not to say you shouldn’t rush out and buy the book right this very instant. Far from it — when and if you win, you can surely gift your previously-purchased copy to a friend, or family member, or local library. Everyone wins!

Incidentally: In totally serious mode, you might actually think about buying a copy of this book (or, honestly, any book you like) for your local library. As you may or may not know, library funds are getting slashed left and right around the country; they’d appreciate the book, and your community would appreciate having books that weren’t incredibly old on the shelves. I of course donated the book to my local library as soon as it came in, and also donated all the books I bought and used for research and fact checking. It’s a worthy cause.


Haircuts and Our Weekend

In case you’re wondering, yes, the shaved head look is a new one for me. Well, not entirely new — when I was five I was sent to live with my aunt for about a year (my mother had had an operation which required a long convalescence) and my uncle Vern, who lived up to every rural stereotype attached to a name like “Vern,” went and had my head buzzed because he thought I looked like a girl (which was probably true — early pictures of me show me to look disturbingly like my own daughter). I believe they sent a school picture to my mother shortly thereafter and that she cried. I didn’t mind; at least they didn’t beat me up in school (well, not for looking like a hippie, in any case).

However, it’s the first time in my adult life my hair’s been this short, and the direct cause of it is frustration with the fact that the more hair you lose, the less the hair you have left wants to do anything. It’s like it gets depressed, like an assembly line worker in a factory that’s chronically laying people off. Oh, look, another fifty follicles shut down. I don’t even see why I bother. Point is, it’s difficult to make what’s left look good, and I’m not one of those people who would choose to spend a great amount of time on it anyway. So off I went to the barber — not the hair stylist. When you go to get your head shaved, you want a barber, damn it.

Who, incidentally, approved of my desire to crop my head close. She told me about the men who came in with less hair than me but with a greater sense of self-denial, demanding she do something with their heads that implied they were still carrying around the hirsute wealth of Fabio. This struck her as sad. You work with what you have, and don’t make what you have work to be more than it is. Good salt of the earth wisdom that you can only get in small-town barbershops. And for only nine bucks, to boot. Most psychological counseling sessions are far more expensive, and don’t include a trim as a throw-in.

I think the barber did a fine job with the haircut, but to be honest I don’t know if the buzzed look is really me. A friend of mine sent me an e-mail after he saw the picture I put up on Friday, saying that it makes me look like a bad-ass. And I’d agree, but I can’t decide if it’s the “Sullen mysterious man that all the chicks crave” sort of bad-ass look, which would be good, or the “Straight outta the Aryan Brotherhood at San Quentin” sort of bad-ass look, which, needless to say, would be kind of bad. Today’s picture is somewhere in the middle of this; I call it my “I’m the new bassist for Metallica, and the publicist told me to scowl like I was unhappy about it” look. Incidentally, I’m not the new bassist for Metallica.

My birthday was swell; I got birthday wishes from friends, had dinner with the in-laws, and then Krissy and I went off to see X2: X-Men United, which I thought was fine. I’m not a big Marvel Comics guy, to be entirely honest with you; it’s like the AL of comic book publishers (DC is the NL, obviously), and as such all its characters feel about ten degrees skewed (and in case you’re wondering, Marvel’s DH is clearly The Hulk — “Hulk Smash!” Yes, Hulk. That’s what we want you to do). But as far Marvel comics movies go, X2 is probably the best one out there, and it’s nice to see that Patrick Stewart still has a viable gig now that the Star Trek movies have imploded around him.

Mother’s Day was likewise very nice and low-key; Krissy spent most of the day with her mother, with Athena in tow, while I stayed at home and banged out a chapter in the new novel. People have been asking me what the new novel is about, and I am of course fairly mysterious about it, except to note that it involves sheep. People think i’m joking about that. I’m not, people. The particular chapter I wrapped up also involves panda steaks, a cult that worships Ted Nugent, and a major diplomatic incident precipitated by a few pungent insults. I can’t believe I get paid for this.

There’s your weekend wrap-up around the Scalzi Household. I didn’t mention the constant 25 mph winds that’s been blowing more or less constantly since Saturday morning or the thunderstorms that have been swinging through on a regular 6-hour basis, because I assume most of you out there have been experiencing this over the weekend as well. Let us never speak of it again.

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