Questions for a Soldier — an Old Man’s War Tale

One of the Whatever readers was apparently haunting the Subterranean Press site recently and noticed something there for pre-order called "An Old Man’s War Tale" and wanted to know what it was about. Well, now that I’ve finished it and it’s been accepted, I can tell you about it.

Every year Subterranean Press puts out a series of limited-edition deluxe signed chapbooks from some interesting authors, for fans of the authors and other collectors. This year I was invited to participate, along with folks like Charles de Lint, Jonathan Letham, Tim Powers and James Blaylock. My contribution is called "Questions for a Soldier." It was previously called "An Old Man’s War Tale" because I was asked to write something in the OMW universe and I agreed to do so, but Bill Schafer, Subterranean’s publisher, had no idea what I would write. Now he does, and now it has a formal title.

The chapbook is short story length, but what I’ve written for it is not a conventional short story. If you’ve read Old Man’s War, you’ll recall how John Perry, the book’s protagonist, does a "goodwill" tour of the colonies after the Battle of Coral. I thought it would be interesting to zoom in to one of the stops on that tour and catch John Perry in the act of talking with the colonists, some of whom are happy to see him, and some of whom are not. The story takes place in the back and forth between Perry and the colonists, and in the events and answers that get revealed in the questions.

If you’re a fan of John Perry and the OMW universe, here’s why this chapbook might be of interest to you:

  •  John Perry doesn’t show up in The Ghost Brigades, so this will be your last chance — for a little while, at least — to catch up with him (other OMW characters do show up in TGB, most notably Jane Sagan — who, let me just say, totally kicks ass).
  • The chapbook features events and action sequences that took place during the time frame of OMW but which weren’t included in the book, including one battle sequence which was one of the first that I imagined for OMW, but wasn’t able to get into the book for various plot reasons. So to some extent this chapbook is akin to a "deleted scenes" feature on a DVD. And we all know how much we love deleted scenes.
  • If you’re paying attention, you might catch foreshadowing, not only for The Ghost Brigades but for the as-yet entirely theoretical third book in the series (which is to say, there’s been no official discussion of a third book, but if and when there is, and if and when I write it, some of what will be in that book will be foreshadowed by what’s in the chapbook. This is my rather convoluted way of saying yes, I do have a plot for a third book, and I’d be happy to write it. Now I need to tell the fine folks at Tor what it is so they can give it a thumbs up or thumbs down). As we all know, foreshadowing is your assurance of quality literature.
  • It’ll tide you over, not unlike a nice light snack, until The Ghost Brigades arrives in February.
  • This particular story is not available in any other format, so once this one’s gone — that’s that.
  • Aside from all that, the chapbook will be illustrated. Mmmm… picturey goodness. And if Subterranean gets the illustrator we’re thinking about, the chapbook is likely to be more valuable because of his contributions than mine. Funny how that works sometimes. (Update: we got him. It’s Bob Eggelton. Woot!)

Subterranean is selling the chapbook in two formats: the standard signed chapbook format for  $18, for which there are 576 copies available, and the unimaginably superdeluxe lettered edition which will be either cloth or leather bound and tray cased, for $175. There will be 26 of those available, and if they sell out, I may keel from shock.

Now, for those of you unfamiliar with the concept of chapbooks, let me do note to you that what you’re getting here is an individual short story-length piece of writing, not an entire novel (or novella). I would hate to have someone shell out $18 (or $175, for that matter) and not know what you’re getting.

But for those of you looking for rare and unusual Scalzi-related curiosities, this is it, baby. This is explicitly designed to be a collector’s item, i.e., something that will go up significantly in value after they find my tragic, bloated body at the bottom of some lake. That’ll teach me to lay off the ponies. And for those of you who won’t be secretly rooting for my morbid, scandal-filled demise, there’s the extra added bonus that those of you who get it will know more about the Old Man’s War universe than everyone else. You can form your own secret club! I can’t wait to learn what the handshake will be.

Once more, here’s the URL to preorder your copy. And of course if you have any questions, just drop them into the comment thread below and I’ll be happy to answer them.

17 Comments on “Questions for a Soldier — an Old Man’s War Tale”

  1. I highly recommend the Subterranean Press chapbooks – as an avid Tim Powers fan I’ve indulged my twisted tastes more than once via this unusual form of mini-publishing. Glad to see you are throwing your lot in with them John.

  2. “You can form your own secret club! I can’t wait to learn what the handshake will be.”

    …What makes you think we’d tell you the handshake?

  3. How does it work if more than 576 people pre-order? Will more be printed or is the Sub Press website smart enough to stop taking pre-orders once the inventory runs out?

  4. I would imagine that once the print run is sold out there will be no more orders taken. Bill watches the site pretty closely so I don’t imagine this will be too much of a problem.

    Just be safe, though, I’d get my order in sooner than later.

  5. Having frantically logged in to get my copy before they’re all gone, I suppose I must now consider myself a Scalzi fan-boy.

  6. I’m such a junkie. $18 is NOTHING compared to the satisfaction of holding another Scalzi work in my hands.

  7. Old Man’s War

    I highly recommend checking out Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi. Admittedly, I first heard of the book from the InstaPundit (Thanks, Glenn!), and it has since renewed a love for science fiction I haven’t really experienced since I was…

  8. OMW ranks very highly on my favorite books of all-time, even though science fiction has only been a sort of passing fancy from time to time. I just picked up the short story, and look forward to reading both it and Ghost Brigades. Btw, I would never have heard of OMW were it not for Glenn Reynolds and InstaPundit, who certainly made the case for me to try you out as an author.

    Satisfied, indeed. :)

  9. Joshua Kay writes:

    “Btw, I would never have heard of OMW were it not for Glenn Reynolds and InstaPundit, who certainly made the case for me to try you out as an author.”

    Yup. I’m definitely aware of the debt I owe to Glenn for that (as well as a couple of others).

  10. Despite my almost daily reading of Instapundit and links therein, I found OMW the old fashioned way – picking books at random from the shelves of my local library 2 days ago – and read it in in the course of one day. The book jacket flogs this blog – I can’t believe the gracelessness of what I just typed – and I am well pleased with what I find here too. Somedays the bear just unzips his hide and hands it to you.

  11. SF Tidbits Part XIX

    Welcome to another installment of SF Tidbits!John Scalzi has written a new story set in the universe of Old Man’s War called “Questions for a Soldier” available as a chapbook from Subterranean Press. Locus Online has a Gallery of 2005…

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