Greetings to the Rat People! Or, An Announcement

If you’re like me, and, if you can read this, you are like me, at least in the larger "I share more DNA with you than with a banana slug" sort of way, after you write a particularly satisfying entry on your blog or journal, you may pause to wonder what would happen to those words if, say, an exchange of nuclear missiles between the United States and whoever has bought Russia’s nukes fried all the computers in the world with their electromagnetic pulses, turning the hard drive discs on which your words are stored and served into drink coasters and bug squashing implements. Chances are, those words would be gone, like much of the rest of civilization, and the only way they’d be recalled would be through your own memory, which would grow increasingly hazy as your start your new, post-literate, post-apocalyptic life, skewering lizards on sharpened tree branches and fighting off the inevitable mutant zombie hordes.

Or — prior to doomsday, you could devise a plan to encode your words into a stable, long-lasting storage medium which features unmediated informational access, generate a large number of such storage devices, and disperse those devices widely, including transactional areas and at centralized governmental repositories, where in each case they will be maintained in a controlled environment with access restricted to those with particular credentials. The multiplicity of these storage devices and the wide range of their dispersal all but ensures that at least one copy of your words will survive through the years to be puzzled over by the archeologists of the evolved rat people who will almost certainly succeed us as the dominant life form here on earth.

This is what I have done.

Which is to say, the Whatever is being made into a book.

More specifically, come June or July of 2006 (or sometime thereabouts), Subterranean Press will release a collection of selected writings from the Whatever, chosen from entries written between 1998 (when the Whatever opened for business) and the end of this very year. That’s a little over seven years of entries to choose from, which should be more than enough to showcase the range of subjects that have been tackled here over the years. Subterranean is best known for their entirely fabulous limited editions of science fiction, fantasy and horror, mostly distributed via mail order, online and specialty shops (most of you know it published my novel Agent to the Stars), but for this we’ll be trying something different: an open print run trade paperback, which we will try to jam into your local Barnes & Noble, just to see what happens. Yes, it’s something of an experiment; this is not the first collected book of online entries — pretty sure Wil Wheaton gets that distinction — but I suspect it’s still a new enough field that there’s some inherent risk involved. All I can say is that if we pull it off, the rat people of the future will hail us as geniuses. Geniuses! Greetings, rat people! Sorry about the mess.

Since what makes the Whatever go — and what helps make this book potentially commercially viable — are the folks who show up here to read and/or heckle me, it’s very likely that I will ask all y’all to help out in the selection of the entries which should appear in the book and in other aspects of its production. And it’s also pretty likely that Subterranean and I will do something special for readers of the Whatever who pre-order the book. What that might be, of course, I’m still working on. But suffice to say that if I’m going to have fun putting this book together — and I’m going to — I want you guys along for the ride.

The first thing I need to decide, I guess, is what I’m going to name it. Greetings to the Rat People! has a nice ring to it. But, er. Maybe not. I’m open to suggestion.

37 Comments on “Greetings to the Rat People! Or, An Announcement”

  1. Hmmm. It is well known (among people who are close to me) that I can’t come up with a title to save my life. What about:

    “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” – oops, that one’s taken. Damn. The first time in my life I’ve come up with a good title, and somebody has already used it (who the heck is this Heinlein guy, anyway?).

    “The Bible” – it’s in use, but it’s got to be in the public domain by now. So you could use this and pick up a few sales to people who are looking for something else.

    “The Collected Writings of John Scalzi: Buy This Now. NOW, I Said!” – might be too long. Otherwise, I like it. It gets right to the point.

    “Whatever, Whyever, Wherever, However, Whoever” – The 5 Ws revisited.

    “The Invasion of the Zebra People of Procyon-5” – not great, as it’s misleading. Unless you plan to include a column about the invasion of the Zebra People of Procyon-5?

    “Minutes of the Annual General Meeting of the Washington State Ratepayer’s Association” – a nice solid title, it proclaims value. It might be a bit dull, though, and I don’t see how you could use it to move books. Plus you might get the Washington State Ratepayer’s Association pissed at you.

    See, I told you I suck at titles.

  2. “I hate your politics” has got to be in that book. So where’s that voting page you need to set up?

  3. How about, “What are you stupid?”

    or “Can you believe I get paid for this?”

    and my favorite “These aren’t the writings you are looking for.”

  4. IMO, it’s absolutely critical that you have “John Scalzi’s Utterly Useless Writing Advice” in there. I started reading your blog when someone pointed me towards that entry and ever since then I have been hooked. I’m almost certain to buy the book if that entry is in there. I doubt that I would buy the book without it.

  5. Writing advice parts 1 and 2 would do much for making it something I’d pick up.

    I think the title should be Buy Old Man’s War, or possibly Old Man’s War’s Amazon Ranking, or perhaps More News About Old Man’s War.

    That last bit would have been funnier a few months ago.

  6. I really like the Rat People bit. I don’t know about the Greetings part, but I would certainly be more interested in buying the book that’s got Rat People in the Title, and my guess is that readers who would be drawn to that title may also be the kind of readers you can convert into fans of your science fiction, though I may be completely wrong about that last part.

  7. I’d like to see your piece on Wiarton Willie included in a best-of book. Your archives no longer go back that far, but apparently you posted it Feb. 3, 1999 – definitely within the date-zone…

  8. Congrats, John.

    First question that comes to mind: will the entries be transcribed with or without the comments? ;-)

    My vote for included entries: John Scalzi Hates Your Politics (I first saw the site when Jeff Porten sent me a link to that entry). Also, I can’t imagine you won’t publish “Being Poor” again. All that being said, you’ve just got to go to one of those survey sites & setup links to a superset of entries & let us vote. It’s only fair, after all…

    Book titles: Not to be boring, but how about “Whatever”? I think it works as a book title for the same reason it works as a blog title. Other ideas: “Taunting the Tauntable”, “By the Way” (can you use that?), and of course, something about torturing cats…

  9. Brian Greenberg:

    “will the entries be transcribed with or without the comments? ;-)”

    You’re being facetious, but it’s also actually an interesting question. I’m going to say “no,” however, since commenters retain copyright to their words on this site (it’s in the disclaimer), and I don’t want to have to track down permissions. I exempt comments that I quote in actual entries, as that’s generally under “fair use.”

    But I don’t want commenters to think their words are undervalued. Merely copyrighted.

    PeterP: I’d have to look at the book. But as I sold about six copies of that, it’s sort of immaterial, anyway.

  10. John,
    Wil Wheaton’s fiirst book was Dancing Barefoot, taken from his blog, but I think Neil Gaiman is the first to publish from his blog in Adventures in the Dream Trade, published in Feb 2002, mainly taken from his journal about American Gods. Dancing Barefoot was first self published in April 2003. So it has been done before. How about title–A Bald Whatever? Problem you might have that Neil had was links in the posts. Anyway, good luck, you seem to be following on Asimov’s trail–books popping up everywhere on everything.

  11. I know you aren’t necessarily asking for input, but would you consider making your “Utterly Useless Writing Advice” essay part of the book? It’s one of my favorite things that you’ve written, and it’s been an inspiration to me (useless or not!)

  12. Please don’t put “John Scalzi” in the title. And if you find that you absolutely _must_ do so, please don’t make it the first words in the title. When customers come in looking for “John Scalzi’s Whatever”, we’re going to have a hard time finding it…

    Also, single word titles are a pain in the ass to find. I type in “whatever” and the computer spits back “Whatever it takes” “whatever mothers says” “whatever happened to Janie”, among others. And that’s just if we do a title search. If we do a keyword search things get harder…

    Am I looking at this from the wrong perspective?

    How about “titular essay”? Or “my wife does our taxes so I can write screeds online”?

    Barring all else, I do like “I hate your politics”…

  13. Oh, great.

    Everyone know that COCKROACHES, in fact, will spawn the future overlords of the world, not rats.

    So, someday, when the cockroach-people read this, the Hive-Overmind will be enraged, and the cockroach people will use their god-like technology to travel back in time and prematurely exterminate humanity to avenge the insult.

    Way to go.

  14. Back in 1997 Suck stuck their collaborative blog onto wood pulp, so there’s a long history, Internet-wise.

    Is it just words, or can we look forward to pretty pictures as well?

  15. If you aren’t going to use “Whatever” or “Schmatever” you should definitely go with “Taunting the Tauntable.”

    And congrats!

  16. John,

    I am writing this under the assumption that you and your beautiful daughter, Athena, will be the only real “people” left in the post-apocalyptic world. Or rather, the only humans who still have genuine, unaltered, human DNA in your bodies.

    On the other hand, we, who are left with inferior DNA that has mutated and evolved beyond recognition and comparison, who would possess branches sprouting from our noses, claws and extra limbs hanging from our shoulders, 5 to 7 eyes (minimum), crustacean mouths, the ability to chameoleonize into our surroundings and spray ink at potential predators, will look up to you with awe and reverence.

    Therefore, it is my humble request that, aside from the preservation of your words into the book of Whatever (which shall become the neo-Bible for us all in the bleak future), you preserve some of your DNA into test tubes. And store it somewhere safe and hidden.

    This is so that the luckier amongst us who evolve into beings of higher-intelligence, upon finding your genetic remnants, may be able to extract some information from your blood and restore humanity to the greatness (and decadence) that it formerly was.

    Can we have some of your DNA, pretty please?

  17. Requests: “Scalzi’s Maxims for Non-Believers” and the one about the child on the train. Oh, and the one about how the ’90s were…wasted? Undone? Subsumed? completely, except for an album by some female artist I can’t remember.

    Reposting/publishing that would refresh my memory. And it would edify the rat people of the far future, whose racial memory only recalls when it was possible to pull six crab-things from the ocean each day for sustenance instead of two.

  18. If confrontational is the tone, “I Hate Your Politics: Collected Rantings of a Blogger” or somesuch might work.

    Titles is hard. Like prezniting.

  19. “Can we have some of your DNA, pretty please?”

    What a great idea! Perhaps Mr. Scalzi could have a vial of his blood drawn, and mixed in with the ink the printer uses for printing the book.

    Now that I think about it, that sounds hauntingly familiar for some reason…

  20. Your writings I’ve saved:

    “I Hate Your Politics”
    “A Quick Note to About-To-Be Married Gays and Lesbians”
    “Election Notes”
    “The Election and John Kerry’s Shoes”

    You must have the second.

  21. I thought Greetings to the Rat People was a great title …

    Oh, the piece on what it means to be poor has to be in there. I’ve been reading for a year or so, and that piece stands out as far and away your best.

  22. At the moment I’m not able to find it via a search of your site, but the entry that made me aware of you as a writer was your “Guidelines for complaints,” or something similar. The guys over at Penny Arcade linked to it years ago. The main point was that you received so many inane babbling emails claiming some sort of valid criticism of your writing that you decided to give such writers some guidelines for appropriate ways to do it. Hilarious and an excellent exemplar of your wit and writing style.

  23. How about: The Musings of a Crack-Smoking Cat Sodomizer?

    It would make it an instant hit with several fringe groups.

    All kidding aside, maybe something like: Whatever -Wisdom and Teachings of an on-line God.

    Ok, so I can’t stop kidding. Maybe something simple like: Greetings from the Blogoshpere.

  24. Mr. Scalzi,

    You may be up for the pulitzer (non-fiction)….so perhaps it may be advisable to put some thought into the title.

  25. Heh. I rather seriously doubt I’ll get anywhere close to a Pulitzer of any sort anytime soon, so I won’t be letting that impinge on my thoughts as I consider a title. But thank you for the vote of confidence.

  26. I can hardly imagine reading the Confederate entries without also reading the comments that followed. That would be like hearing the joke but not the punchline. That’s not to say your entries were meant as a joke or the repondents were in anyway the punchline…well maybe so.

  27. “I already said, Whatever.”

    This is why I’m not a professional titler… I don’t care if that’s not a real job or word.

    Good luck and congrats on the book.

  28. Clearly, I’ve spent *way* too much time reading the Whatever over the last years, but assuming the biggies will be covered (I Hate Your Politics, Being Poor, assorted entries on “states rights” and “child free”), here are a variety of others to consider (dates approximate):

    20010127 Earl of Darke
    20020704 Dear Canada
    20020824 Religion as a cover for abuse
    20020920 Krissy came home the other night with Who Moved My Cheese?
    20021126 Big Bang Belief
    20030329 The Romulan Ambassador to TV
    20030329 The War as Advertised
    20030402 Caution: Stupid People At Work
    20030411 Making the Other Guy Die
    20030416 The Right to Virtually Assemble
    20030423 X Prime
    20030424 X Prime Followup
    20030425 Strawberry Shortcake and Penny Arcade
    20030513 Note to Creationists
    20030604 I Can’t Believe It’s Not the American Flag!
    20030618 Reader Request #6: Immigration
    20030924 Liars
    20040329 Different. Better.
    20040624 What constitutes libel
    20040913 Albert and Cthulhu, Sitting In a Tree
    20050321 Terry Schiavo
    20050506 What My Jesus Would Do
    20050621 Oh My God! They Look Just Like Us!
    20051021 The Value of a Useless Education

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