Seeking Submissions For SF Magazine — Please Read The Whole Entry

I’m going to do a short form for the benefit of people getting the RSS feed, followed by a longer, more detailed version for everyone else.

Short Version: I’m editing the Spring 2006 edition of Subterranean Magazine (it’s new), seeking fiction and non-fiction submissions on the theme of Science Fiction Clichés. SF only (no fantasy). First world serial rights, 5-7 cents (US)/word. Up to 5,000 words for fiction, up to 3,000 words for non-fiction (some leeway for longer but not much). Submit full fiction, query non-fiction. Electronic Submissions ONLY, plain text e-mail(NOT html, no attachments), to “submissions@scalzi.com.” Submissions/queries will be accepted ONLY between 10/1/05 and 11/1/05. Will respond by 12/31/05. If you’re reading this short version, PLEASE read longer version before submitting: http://www.scalzi.com/whatever/003471.html .

And now, the longer version:

Subterranean Press, the publisher which will be releasing the limited hardcover version of Agent to the Stars in July, is also launching a quarterly magazine, called (naturally enough) Subterranean Magazine, the first issue of which should be out in reasonably short order (you can order it here, if you like). Bill Schafer, who is the publisher, asked me if I might be interested in taking the editorial reins for the Spring 2006 issue.

I was, for at least three reasons. One, I enjoy editing; I did it before when I worked for AOL (I edited a humor section there) and I was interested in trying it in the field of science fiction. Two, I know that my earlier stint as an editor made me a better writer, because I’d been on the other side of the blue pencil; gaining experience as an editor in science fiction could only help make my own science fiction writing better. Three, I’d recently been mulling over shopping the idea of me editing an SF anthology around a particular theme — and here was a chance to do just that, in magazine form. It all clicked together. I said yes, Bill gave me a budget, and here we are.

So, now that I’ve found someone insane — uh, make that, inspired — enough to let me take control of an entire magazine issue, let me tell you what I want to make the issue about:

Big Honkin’ Science Fiction Clichés.

Rocketships and orinthopters, Little Green Men and Amazon Women on the Moon, master computers flummoxed by simple logic, worlds where everyone wears the same silver tunics, everyone eating meals made from pills, people named “Ted-35” and “Jill QR7.” Yes. As writers we’re trained to run from them, because they’ve been done to death (or to unmarketability, which for stories is the same thing). Magazines quite rightly caution prospective writers from them. The Internet holds entire lists of them. Television shows have run for years doing nothing more than mocking them.

These are what I want to see, in brand-spankin’-new stories.

Why? Well, I guess mostly because we’re not supposed to play with clichés, and you know how people get when they’re told they can’t touch something. It makes them want to get their grimy little paws all over that thing. Also, of course, there’s a substantive difference between writing a story filled with clichés, that you think is something new and original, and going in knowing that you’re working with clichés, and being aware you’ll have to work to sell it to the reader (and also the editor).

There’s also the matter that right now there are some damn fine writers out there, and I’m personally itchin’ to see what some of them could do to overhaul a crappy old cliché and make it the heart of a clean-burning, page-turning tale.

To be clear, I don’t want see stories with clichéd elements that are merely obvious rehashes or lazy sardonic “send-ups” of the very stories that got these plot ideas banned to the hinterlands. I adore humor in SF and will be looking for it, but let’s face it: sardonically sending up SF clichés is its own cliché (Oh, the irony). Show me an Amazon Women on the Moon story full of snarky in-joke SF references, and you’ve just shown me what everyone else has done for the last 30 years, and why would I buy that? Show me an Amazon Women on the Moon story that gets me genuinely emotionally involved, and now we’re talking.

Now that I’ve gone over the general concept, let’s talk details. Here’s what I’ll be looking for:

Fiction: First off, science fiction only — no fantasy. Nothing against fantasy, I just want to focus on science fiction this time around. I’m ecumenical in regards to the SF clichés you can work with: take them from literature, TV or film (or video games, even) (One topic is already taken: The Singularity). Humor is good, but I sincerely hope not to be buying all humor. Stories in general should be no more than 5,000 words long — I may possibly buy longer works but I’ll be honest and say that as your story drifts further from the 5K limit, your likelihood of a sale decreases on an exponential scale. Don’t feel that you have to make the story 5,000 words; rather make it the right length for what you’re trying to tell. Submit the entire piece.

Non-fiction: Essays, critical pieces, humor, commentary and interviews, all relating to the theme of science fiction clichés. 3,000 words is a good max length here. Query first — Don’t send completed pieces. Send information about your non-fiction publishing experience and links to up to three non-fiction pieces online. Previously-published non-fiction writers strongly preferred.

No poetry or artwork.

What We’re Buying: First World Serial Rights (meaning we present the story first worldwide, including in electronic form). You keep everything else. Simple.

What We’re Paying: 5 to 7 cents(US) a word. Payment on or by 12/31/05.

How to Submit: Electronic submissions only, to “submissions@scalzi.com.” Please do ALL of the following:

1. Plain text e-mail vastly preferred to html e-mail. If you don’t know how not to send html-enabled e-mail, fine, but try not to.

2. No attachments. Submissions with attachments will be deleted unread.

3. For submissions, make your subject lines as follows:

FICTION SUBMISSION — [Name of Story] by [Name of Author]
or
NON-FICTION QUERY — [Name of Piece] by [Name of Author]

Submissions with subject headers not in this format are likely to find themselves filtered into the trash along with the inevitable spam this e-mail address will accrue.

4. No simultaneous submissions.

5. One submission per category, please (i.e., one fiction and one non-fiction).

When to Submit: All submissions need to be submitted between October 1, 2005 and November 1, 2005. Submissions before that date will be deleted unread; submissions after that date likewise. We’re doing it this way for two reasons: one, because we want to give you all time to write something without worrying that the magazine is being filled up before you can submit; two, because until then I have other projects I’ll be working on.

Those with non-fiction queries are strongly encouraged to query by October 5, 2005; writers whose queries are approved will have to submit full articles six weeks after approval of query.

Will respond by: December 31, 2005. Happy new year!

That’s the long form. If you have any questions, go ahead and drop them in the comment thread — I’ll be happy to answer them. And to answer one I’m sure I’ll get: Yes, I’ll post reminders the closer we get to submission time. Thanks!

Magic Or Madness

It gives me an unreasonable amount of pleasure to note that my friend Justine Larbalestier’s first novel, Magic or Madness, has now hit the stores, and is ready for you to buy. It gives me unreasonable amount of pleasure because Justine’s a faboo human being, but more importantly, this is a really excellent novel — not just an excellent young adult novel (because that’s its categorization), but just a damn fine read. As of course any excellent YA novel would have to be; you can’t write an excellent novel for any audience segment, and not have it be a good novel, period.

And it’s not just me who thinks so: Krissy’s read MorM and proclaimed it to be excellent, and Krissy simply doesn’t have patience for a bad read (trust me on this, said the writer husband). Also, there’s the matter of the starred reviews in both Booklist and School Library Journal, which is more starred reviews than my book got, I’ll tell you that right now. Peruse the following gush from the School Library Journal:

Australian author Larbalestier has wrought beautiful and fearsome magic in this novel… Larbalestier’s sense of place and refreshing exploration of magic as a force for both good and evil make this novel unusual. By turns a fantasy adventure and a thoughtful examination of relationships, this radiant gem stands alone, but expect readers to be impatient for the rest of the trilogy.

Yow.

The story (about a troubled girl who discovers a magic door that takes her from Australia to NYC — and all the implications about the very fact of that door) is tight, tense, vibrantly written, and also a story that’s not a rehash or retread. Best of all, Justine’s authorial voice is clear and strong and doesn’t sound like anyone else’s. I can actually hear Justine in it, but I suspect even people who don’t actually know her will pick up on her distinctive tone. That’s cool in my book.

If you’ve got a young reader in the house who is on the hunt for good contemporary fantasy, now you know where to go. Be sure not to steal it from them before they finish. That’s just rude.

And congratulations to Justine on her debut! You only get one first novel, and she’s done it right.

(While I’m boosting Justine, I’d be remiss not to note that the second installment of Scott “I’m Justine’s Husband” Westerfeld’s Midnighters YA series — Touching Darkness — is also out this month and awaiting your consideration. I haven’t read it yet, so I cannot yet gush about it, but you may recall the first book in the series is an award winner, and the aforementioned School Library Journal suggests in its review that it is “guaranteed to fly off the shelves.” Would that we all had such guarantees about our books.)

Magic Or Madness

It gives me an unreasonable amount of pleasure to note that my friend Justine Larbalestier’s first novel, Magic or Madness, has now hit the stores, and is ready for you to buy. It gives me unreasonable amount of pleasure because Justine’s a faboo human being, but more importantly, this is a really excellent novel — not just an excellent young adult novel (because that’s its categorization), but just a damn fine read. As of course any excellent YA novel would have to be; you can’t write an excellent novel for any audience segment, and not have it be a good novel, period.

And it’s not just me who thinks so: Krissy’s read MorM and proclaimed it to be excellent, and Krissy simply doesn’t have patience for a bad read (trust me on this, said the writer husband). Also, there’s the matter of the starred reviews in both Booklist and School Library Journal, which is more starred reviews than my book got, I’ll tell you that right now. Peruse the following gush from the School Library Journal:

Australian author Larbalestier has wrought beautiful and fearsome magic in this novel… Larbalestier’s sense of place and refreshing exploration of magic as a force for both good and evil make this novel unusual. By turns a fantasy adventure and a thoughtful examination of relationships, this radiant gem stands alone, but expect readers to be impatient for the rest of the trilogy.

Yow.

The story (about a troubled girl who discovers a magic door that takes her from Australia to NYC — and all the implications about the very fact of that door) is tight, tense, vibrantly written, and also a story that’s not a rehash or retread. Best of all, Justine’s authorial voice is clear and strong and doesn’t sound like anyone else’s. I can actually hear Justine in it, but I suspect even people who don’t actually know her will pick up on her distinctive tone. That’s cool in my book.

If you’ve got a young reader in the house who is on the hunt for good contemporary fantasy, now you know where to go. Be sure not to steal it from them before they finish. That’s just rude.

And congratulations to Justine on her debut! You only get one first novel, and she’s done it right.

(While I’m boosting Justine, I’d be remiss not to note that the second installment of Scott “I’m Justine’s Husband” Westerfeld’s Midnighters YA series — Touching Darkness — is also out this month and awaiting your consideration. I haven’t read it yet, so I cannot yet gush about it, but you may recall the first book in the series is an award winner, and the aforementioned School Library Journal suggests in its review that it is “guaranteed to fly off the shelves.” Would that we all had such guarantees about our books.)

Priming the Pump

The Whatever will be quiet over the weekend, but before I go I want to encourage all of you who write science fiction short stories — or who want to write science fiction short stories, or know someone who fits into either category above — to come around here on Monday, because I will have a big announcement that will be of interest to those sorts of people.

And what will it be? Well, let’s just say that when I suggested a few days ago that what I really wanted was my own slush pile to root through, someone somewhere was listening. Someone with both an appropriate publication and a production budget, and sufficient apparent insanity to give me free rein over both.

Bwa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Oh, I have plans. Just you wait.

See you here Monday, bright and early.

What SF is Great Literature?

Question from Jim Millen in the comment thread of the previous post:

Just out of curiosity, John, are there any SF books in particular that you would say are great literature? Obviously I guess this is going to be hugely subjective, but I’d be interested in what you, or anyone else for that matter, thinks.

I’m writing up a response, which I’ll post here as an update, but I don’t want the rest of you who would like to give your own answers to have to wait on me to finish. So if you would like to nominate some science fiction (or fantasy) that you think is genuinely great literature, please do. It would also be swell if you could at least briefly explain why that those works ring the “great lit” bell for you.

***

Update: Here are five of my “Great Lit” picks for SF/F:

Frankenstein, by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley — generally regarded as the first SF novel, and sets the fiction template for future tussles between hubris-filled scientists and God/nature.

1984, by George Orwell — Once of the first and best evocations of a political dystopia, and one of the few SF books that is more important as political literature than as science fiction.

Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury — Another dystopia, one that places literature itself in the crosshairs. I think The Martian Chronicles also qualifies, for being a brilliant testimony of the mid-20th century’s relationship with Mars.

Winter’s Tale, by Mark Helprin — Glorious writing that re-imagines New York into the sort of place that makes Oz look pedestrian. Arguably the best written fantasy novel ever.

The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman — Uneven (particularly in the parts when Gaiman had to pay fealty to the DC comic book universe) but ultimately one of the best examples of how the graphic novel format can be used to illuminate an already compelling tale (or set of tales in this case); it also features a main character tragically true to his own nature.

Alan Moore’s Watchman is also brilliant and arguably great lit, too, but for my money it’s a little too dependent on context (i.e., you have to know enough about comic books and superheroes to get all the deconstructing Moore does). The Sandman series is largely self-contained (even the previously-mentioned DC comics universe intrudes only lightly, and you can still get the full effect of the work without knowing anything about it — ask my wife).

What Publishing Is

As there has been recent confusion on the matter, let’s talk about what publishing is. Ready? Here it is:

Publishing is an engine for the production of competent writing.

That’s it.

Now the details:

What is competent writing? Competent writing is writing that efficiently describes ideas and concepts to an audience, using a grammar that the audience can understand.

Why is publishing an engine for the production of competent writing? Because competent writing has a competitive advantage over incompetent writing. The book that competently describes the major battles of World War II, or a sex scene, or how to build and stain a backyard deck, has a distinct informational (and commercial) advantage over books with the same subjects that transmit their ideas poorly.

How does publishing select for competence? By employing competence-enhancing mechanisms at every step of writing production. The submission process exists (among other things) to weed out the grossly incompetent writing. The editing process exists to strengthen the text and to make sure its ideas are more easily assimilated by the reader. The design process aims to provide the text with a visual grammar that assists the goals of the text. The marketing process aims to promote the book’s competence or (in the worst case scenario) minimize its competence failures.

What does this mean for writers? In a broad sense: If you are professionally published by a legitimate publisher, you are probably at the very least a minimally competent writer.

Points to make here:

1. Competent is not the same as good. “Good” is about taste and style; “competent” is about facility with the writing grammar of a language. Moreover, not every bit of competent writing needs to be “good” — you don’t necessarily want a user manual to knock you on your ass with its prose style, you just want it to tell you how to use your damn toaster. With literature and non-fiction, there are any number of competent writers one might subjectively label “bad” writers — for all their ability to construct a sentence, the sentences they construct simply don’t do anything for you.

Although competent is not the same as good, it’s also the case that good books are always competent; at the very least, I’ve never heard of a good book that was also incompetently written (if you have, please enlighten me). Conversely, although it’s possible for a competent book to be stylistically bad, all incompetent books are also bad (again, I’d be pleased to know of exceptions).

1a. Competent is not always, but can sometimes be, the enemy of “good.” Adventurous or challenging writing often skates on the edge of accepted rubrics of competence, as writers try new forms (example: James Joyce’s Ulysses or Samuel Delaney’s Dhalgren), and as such runs counter to publishing’s conservative tendencies to publish such work. Commercial publishing in particular wants what sells. However, it’s also possible that competence can aid “good,” if the traditionally competent work it publishes buys a publisher enough commercial and critical headroom to attempt the occasional stab at weirdness (Dhalgren was indeed published by someone, after all). This is where the heavy curtain of monolithic “publishing” is pulled back to reveal editors with personal preferences and a drive to publish important work from time to time, and damn the sales.

2. Published work is a valid general metric for writing competence; however unpublished writing and writers are not necessarily incompetent. Incompetent writers tend to remain unpublished, but writing is often rejected for reasons other than competence: The submissions editor may have too many of that sort of writing in the dock, for example. And since new writers are continually debuting, it’s axiomatic that they would possess writing competence while still in an unpublished state. By the same token, lots of “good” writers and writing struggle to get published (or are not published at all). Published authors should not assume they are better writers than unpublished ones, although they very probably have more insight into the publishing process as a professional endeavor.

3. The competence engine of publishing does not run perfectly (but it runs pretty well). Incompetent writers and writing do get published — not as significant percentage, but not so infrequently as to be entirely unnoticeable. The reasons for this range from incompetent editors (not a frequent occurrence in professional publishing, to be sure) to authors and/or celebrities whose fame is commercially significant enough that they are cut a measure of competence slack that is not available to the average schmoe writer — and even then any publisher worth its salt would try to impose some amount of competence on the work. Be that as it may, if Stephen King or John Grisham really wanted to (and to be clear, I don’t suspect they do), they could probably whip up a book comprised entirely of reviews of their own intestinal emanations (“A Bear in the Woods: 25 Years of Squatlogging, 1979-2004”), and some publisher somewhere would be pleased to publish it. Most writers do not have that luxury, and I think we can all be thankful for that.

Most writers who wish to be published must demonstrate competence every single time they endeavor to be published, or they won’t be published for very long. This is why the occasional grumbling one hears that the publishing industry is really all about who you know doesn’t ring true to people who have been published. Publishing rather ruthlessly excises incompetent writers, and a legitimate publishing company that released incompetent work on a regular basis would find itself out of business pretty quickly.

Through effort and wile and the judicious use of knee pads, an incompetent writer probably could get published by a legitimate publisher — once. But considering all the effort it would take to make that happen, it would probably be simpler to learn how to be a competent writer. Which bring us to our last point:

4. Writing competence is a learnable skill — and therefore most people are capable of being competent writers. Writing competently isn’t rocket science; it requires the knowledge of certain grammatical rules, which are less difficult than, say, calculus, followed by lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of writing practice. Yes, some writers are gifted by God or nature to be great writers and have that great ineffable thing that makes their writing sing without any effort at all. The odds that person is you are slim.

For everyone else, it’s the learnable writing skills that will be the thing that gets you published — and to be clear, it wouldn’t hurt the sky-blue miracle writers to work on the nuts and bolts of the writing process so when and if the muse takes a hike they have something to fall back on. As a practical matter, assume you’ll need the writing training and practice, even if secretly in your heart you know God himself touched your quill. Think of it as a publishing career seat belt.

So that’s what publishing is, and how it gets done.

What Publishing Is

As there has been recent confusion on the matter, let’s talk about what publishing is. Ready? Here it is:

Publishing is an engine for the production of competent writing.

That’s it.

Now the details:

What is competent writing? Competent writing is writing that efficiently describes ideas and concepts to an audience, using a grammar that the audience can understand.

Why is publishing an engine for the production of competent writing? Because competent writing has a competitive advantage over incompetent writing. The book that competently describes the major battles of World War II, or a sex scene, or how to build and stain a backyard deck, has a distinct informational (and commercial) advantage over books with the same subjects that transmit their ideas poorly.

How does publishing select for competence? By employing competence-enhancing mechanisms at every step of writing production. The submission process exists (among other things) to weed out the grossly incompetent writing. The editing process exists to strengthen the text and to make sure its ideas are more easily assimilated by the reader. The design process aims to provide the text with a visual grammar that assists the goals of the text. The marketing process aims to promote the book’s competence or (in the worst case scenario) minimize its competence failures.

What does this mean for writers? In a broad sense: If you are professionally published by a legitimate publisher, you are probably at the very least a minimally competent writer.

Points to make here:

1. Competent is not the same as good. “Good” is about taste and style; “competent” is about facility with the writing grammar of a language. Moreover, not every bit of competent writing needs to be “good” — you don’t necessarily want a user manual to knock you on your ass with its prose style, you just want it to tell you how to use your damn toaster. With literature and non-fiction, there are any number of competent writers one might subjectively label “bad” writers — for all their ability to construct a sentence, the sentences they construct simply don’t do anything for you.

Although competent is not the same as good, it’s also the case that good books are always competent; at the very least, I’ve never heard of a good book that was also incompetently written (if you have, please enlighten me). Conversely, although it’s possible for a competent book to be stylistically bad, all incompetent books are also bad (again, I’d be pleased to know of exceptions).

1a. Competent is not always, but can sometimes be, the enemy of “good.” Adventurous or challenging writing often skates on the edge of accepted rubrics of competence, as writers try new forms (example: James Joyce’s Ulysses or Samuel Delaney’s Dhalgren), and as such runs counter to publishing’s conservative tendencies to publish such work. Commercial publishing in particular wants what sells. However, it’s also possible that competence can aid “good,” if the traditionally competent work it publishes buys a publisher enough commercial and critical headroom to attempt the occasional stab at weirdness (Dhalgren was indeed published by someone, after all). This is where the heavy curtain of monolithic “publishing” is pulled back to reveal editors with personal preferences and a drive to publish important work from time to time, and damn the sales.

2. Published work is a valid general metric for writing competence; however unpublished writing and writers are not necessarily incompetent. Incompetent writers tend to remain unpublished, but writing is often rejected for reasons other than competence: The submissions editor may have too many of that sort of writing in the dock, for example. And since new writers are continually debuting, it’s axiomatic that they would possess writing competence while still in an unpublished state. By the same token, lots of “good” writers and writing struggle to get published (or are not published at all). Published authors should not assume they are better writers than unpublished ones, although they very probably have more insight into the publishing process as a professional endeavor.

3. The competence engine of publishing does not run perfectly (but it runs pretty well). Incompetent writers and writing do get published — not as significant percentage, but not so infrequently as to be entirely unnoticeable. The reasons for this range from incompetent editors (not a frequent occurrence in professional publishing, to be sure) to authors and/or celebrities whose fame is commercially significant enough that they are cut a measure of competence slack that is not available to the average schmoe writer — and even then any publisher worth its salt would try to impose some amount of competence on the work. Be that as it may, if Stephen King or John Grisham really wanted to (and to be clear, I don’t suspect they do), they could probably whip up a book comprised entirely of reviews of their own intestinal emanations (“A Bear in the Woods: 25 Years of Squatlogging, 1979-2004”), and some publisher somewhere would be pleased to publish it. Most writers do not have that luxury, and I think we can all be thankful for that.

Most writers who wish to be published must demonstrate competence every single time they endeavor to be published, or they won’t be published for very long. This is why the occasional grumbling one hears that the publishing industry is really all about who you know doesn’t ring true to people who have been published. Publishing rather ruthlessly excises incompetent writers, and a legitimate publishing company that released incompetent work on a regular basis would find itself out of business pretty quickly.

Through effort and wile and the judicious use of knee pads, an incompetent writer probably could get published by a legitimate publisher — once. But considering all the effort it would take to make that happen, it would probably be simpler to learn how to be a competent writer. Which bring us to our last point:

4. Writing competence is a learnable skill — and therefore most people are capable of being competent writers. Writing competently isn’t rocket science; it requires the knowledge of certain grammatical rules, which are less difficult than, say, calculus, followed by lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of writing practice. Yes, some writers are gifted by God or nature to be great writers and have that great ineffable thing that makes their writing sing without any effort at all. The odds that person is you are slim.

For everyone else, it’s the learnable writing skills that will be the thing that gets you published — and to be clear, it wouldn’t hurt the sky-blue miracle writers to work on the nuts and bolts of the writing process so when and if the muse takes a hike they have something to fall back on. As a practical matter, assume you’ll need the writing training and practice, even if secretly in your heart you know God himself touched your quill. Think of it as a publishing career seat belt.

So that’s what publishing is, and how it gets done.

The Greatest Athena Picture Yet

Athena celebrating her victory on Dance Dance Revolution
(800×600 image pop-up).

Class Act

One more reason to be glad Tor is one of my publishers, via this online obit of Andre Norton:

Her last complete novel, “Three Hands of Scorpio,” is set to be released in April. Norton’s publisher, Tor Books, rushed to have one copy printed so that the author, who had been sick for almost a year, could see it.

“She was able to hold it on Friday,” Jewell said. “She took it and said, ‘What a pretty cobalt blue for the cover.’ “

The obit says the she asked to be cremated with the first and last books she wrote; she’ll be able to have that wish fulfilled.

Good on ya, Tor.

An Earned-Out Universe

Good news from my non-fiction agent: The Rough Guide to the Universe has earned out its advance, making it officially the first of my books to do so (For Book of the Dumb I was paid a flat fee plus bonuses when the book hits certain sales points; under a more conventional contract I would have earned out some time ago. Old Man’s War has earned out at this point, I think, but it’s early and there are no official sales figures yet). Yay, Universe!

This is especially sweet since my first book for Rough Guides (The Rough Guide to Money Online) was something of a disappointment, being released as it was just as the Internet Bubble was popping. I appreciated that they gave the go-ahead for the Universe book anyway, so I’m delighted to be able to have provided them with a solidly performing book. Here’s hoping The Rough Guide to Science Fiction Film continues the upward trend.

Hate Mail Entries

I had a request to repost the “How to send me hate mail” entries from 2002 — which surprised me since I though I had already reposted them. Apparently not. I will eventually repost them in their appropriate archived month, but for now, here they are in one omnibus edition. You’ll find them behind the cut. Please note that they are positively swimming in profanity, so the more sensitive among you are warned.

Read More »

Hate Mail Entries

I had a request to repost the “How to send me hate mail” entries from 2002 — which surprised me since I though I had already reposted them. Apparently not. I will eventually repost them in their appropriate archived month, but for now, here they are in one omnibus edition. You’ll find them behind the cut. Please note that they are positively swimming in profanity, so the more sensitive among you are warned.

Read More »

Quick Basement Update

For those of you wondering: It was a busted sump pump, not an actual busted pipe. Which is good because a busted sump pump is easy to fix, whereas a busted pipe (depending on where it is), not so much. We broomed out much of the standing water ourselves and then let the pros come in and handle the rest, and now we’ve got three very large blowers downstairs drying the place out (see picture). And of course, now we have a new sump pump.

We had some water damage to stuff we had stored down there but not as much as there could have been, and we used the opportunity to junk some stuff we’d been meaning to get rid of anyway. We’ll have to see what the final bill is, but overall, if you’re going to have a domestic disaster, this seems the way to do it.

James Valvis at it Again

Lest one thinks that I only give space to those who would praise my work, I present another installment of James Valvis’ long-simmering hatred of everything I do, this one off the message boards of the Thunder Sandwich E-zine. James writes, in part:

Scalzi is a shitty writer, plain and simple. No matter how many “books” he publishes. He’s good at playing the publishing game, kissing the right bottoms, and that’s about it. To call his novels (2 of them, I think) insipid is to be polite. I could never get past Chapter 3– and I got that far only because I promised him I would look at it.) Dull and clichéd characters, ridiculous situations, lazy prose, and humor that relies on fart jokes. Ugh. You don’t have to be an “elitist” to demand a writer at least *try* to learn his craft.

He’s right, of course. I totally suck. However, I am reminded of the story in which George Bernard Shaw takes a curtain call to thunderous applause after the premiere of one of his plays. As the applause dies down, someone in the back bellows something along the line of “your play stinks!” To which Shaw replied, “Sir, I quite agree with you. But who are we to oppose the masses?” For some strange and unfathomable reason, despite my entire lack of competence in the field of writing, people buy my books, and publishers insist on continuing to give me work. I am ashamed to say I have not the common decency to refuse the money. Perhaps one day I will have the strength of character not to publish — and indeed, in this endeavor, Jim shall be my role model. Until then, however, I will shamefully continue to put out “books.”

Of course, Jim’s fulminated about my writing before, which I have also duly noted. One does wonder why he bothers. No amount of success I have in publishing will make his writing any more or less than what it is. I would refer Jim here, specifically to peruse tips numbered 2,3 and 4 (and also 9), but inasmuch as the likelihood of him actually following any of my advice is exceedingly thin, I don’t see much point. But it’s nice to see he’s still thinking of me. I regret to say that until pretty much this moment, I could not say the same.

Glub, Glub

Happiness isn’t: Two inches of standing water in your basement from a broken pipe.

Consequently, this is all you get today. Enjoy!

Glub, Glub

Happiness isn’t: Two inches of standing water in your basement from a broken pipe.

Consequently, this is all you get today. Enjoy!

Irrationalists

I was all geared up to write a long think piece about the gay marriage decision in California and its implications and blah blah blah barf, but then I decided that even the thought of typing that out made me want to bathe my eyeballs in lye. And if I don’t even want to type it, I don’t see why any of you would want to read it. I’m pleased with the ruling and that’s about that.

Instead, I want to leave you with a thought about politics, which is that I think the real fault lines in politics today do not lie along the traditional conservative/liberal lines but along rational/irrational lines, and the real war in politics these days is along the latter rather than the former. This is why, for example, I’m far more comfortable with some conservatives than I am with some liberals, even though my own positions tend more liberal than not. I’m rather more comfortable dealing with someone whose politics I disagree with, but I can see how they got to where they are, than someone who politics are in line with mine but who appear to have arrived at those politics without an intermediary step of, you know, thinking about those politics.

The real tragedy of politics today is not that we have a conservative in the White House, but that we have an irrationalist there — someone whose policy positions can’t be seen as divorced from reality, if only because that would imply they had ever been based there at all. Bush’s irrationalist tendencies have fundamentally little to do with his conservative tendencies, which is to say that the former are not spawned from the latter. God knows irrationalism lies on both sides of the conventional political spectrum; the irrationalists of the left who tried to expunge “dead white guys” from curricula back when I was still in school to my mind walk arm and arm with the irrationalists on the right who are now busily trying to expunge evolution. An irrationalist liberal in the White House would be no better than Bush, that’s for sure.

There’s a more common name for irrationalists in politics: “wingnuts.” But I think that particular word is both inaccurate and falsely comforting, since it suggests that irrationalists are marginalized on the edge of political discourse. A hint for you: When an irrational politician sleeps in the White House, irrationalism is not exactly marginalized. Irrationalists aren’t wingnuts; they’re not even the wings. They’re the damned fuselage of political discourse at the moment, and I think that’s pretty damn scary.

The big problem with irrationalists is that they expect rational people with the same surface politics as them to fall into line, and get confused and angry when they don’t. The delicious irony of the judge in the California case being a Republican, appointed by a Republican, isn’t irony at all when you look at it along rational -irrational lines. Of course the judge ruled that California couldn’t bar same-sex marriages; rationally speaking, there’s no good reason to do so. That the judge happens to be Republican is immaterial to this sort of rational line of jurisprudence. When you’re irrational, you don’t get that, and so you become angry and enraged.

The big problem with rationalists is that they continually underestimate the irrational, assuming, in that charmingly smug way of theirs, that no one really thinks like that when it’s rather blatantly obvious that they do — and there’s a lot of them. Rationalists get stuck inside their own echo chambers and forget that outside the echo chamber there’s a whole bunch of people who are all-too-easily swayed by the ambitiously irrational. At this particular moment in history the really busy irrationalists are on the right, but it wasn’t that long ago that they were on the left, and no doubt they’ll be there again before I die.

Irrational politics are dangerous; I don’t need to recount my general litany of complaints about the Bush administration’s policies to make that point. Rational conservatives should be aware that the irrational conservatives are not your friends; rational liberals, the same (rational moderates, rest easy; for some unfathomable reason, there don’t seem to be very many irrational moderates). Indeed, the rational all along the political spectrum should realize they have far more common cause with other rationalists, in terms of effective governing, than they do with the irrationalists who ostensibly share their politics.

I mean, I know it won’t happen. But wouldn’t it be nice.

The Most Sensible Damn Thing Anyone’s Said About Same Sex Marriage

“The State’s protracted denial of equal protection cannot be justified simply because such constitutional violation has become traditional.”

— Judge Richard Kramer, in ruling that California barring same-sex marriages is unconstitutional. Kramer, incidentally, appointed by a Republican governor.

I’ll have more to say on this later, but right now, I’m on a deadline. For the moment, suffice to say: A fine ruling. Any day when equal rights are extended is a good day for all of us. And for those of you just tuning in, it’s also a fine time to revisit this entry, in which I tell why I support same-sex marriage, because I am married myself.

A good day.

The Most Sensible Damn Thing Anyone’s Said About Same Sex Marriage

“The State’s protracted denial of equal protection cannot be justified simply because such constitutional violation has become traditional.”

— Judge Richard Kramer, in ruling that California barring same-sex marriages is unconstitutional. Kramer, incidentally, appointed by a Republican governor.

I’ll have more to say on this later, but right now, I’m on a deadline. For the moment, suffice to say: A fine ruling. Any day when equal rights are extended is a good day for all of us. And for those of you just tuning in, it’s also a fine time to revisit this entry, in which I tell why I support same-sex marriage, because I am married myself.

A good day.

I For One Welcome Our New Storage Overlords

maxtor.jpg

Aieeee! Behold the mighty Max-Tor, avatar of the Storage Gods! In its capacious guts are 250 GB of file-encompassing void, designed to swallow the vast mass of mp3s, jpgs, wav and mov files that so recently threatened to swamp my computer’s hard drives. No more! Bow down, foolish multimedia! Thou art foiled, yea verily, I say.

More prosaically, my shiny new Maxtor drive is now the repository of all my various music/movie/picture files, which are generally the files that I keep accumulating, and which were crowding up my other hard drives, on which I keep my applications. I transferred over 90GB today and have another 143GB of space to fill, which should last for a while (the 250 GB claim is a marketing lie in which they round down to 1000 MB from the more proper 1024MB, so you really get 233GB, which is still quite a lot). By the time I fill up the 250GB, I’ll likely be able to get a 500GB or 1TB drive for the same price I got this drive for, and so on and so on. Basically, unless the Apocalypse comes, I’ll probably never run out of storage space. Heady times to be alive, I tell you.

Anyway, that’s one of my wants down. I’ll probably go for the chair next. I know, I’m livin’ large.