Scalzi Sells Out to Sprint and the Chinese, and Other Tales


Behold my new toy, which is a cell phone that I received for free, along with six months service with all the bells and whistles, for no better reason than apparently someone at Sprint wandered by the Whatever and decided I was cool enough to give a free phone to. Now, the actual reason is that this site gets tons of visits per day and the Sprint folks are hoping that my excited babbling about their Sprint Power Vision service will convince the mass of you to stampede to the store to pick up your very own MM-A920 by Samsung, with built-in 1.3 megapixel camera and mp3 player and blue-green high-energy laser. So you can melt the heads of your enemies, take a photo of the carnage and then play Queen’s “We Are the Champions,” or some such thing. So there you have it. Submit to your viral marketers! And eat Butterfingers!

In reality, of course, I expect you not to do any of the above (particularly that laser bit), but it’s an interesting marketing concept, and I don’t mind getting a free phone to play with for six months (after which the service is switched off and I turn back into a pumpkin). As most of you know I don’t (or didn’t) own a cell phone because for the life of me I couldn’t see why I needed one. But, hey, if it’s free, I’ll give it a try, and I’ll be happy to fiddle with the camera/mp3 player/laser/whatever and see how it all works for me. If I genuinely am blown away by it, I’ll let you know.

Also, if you’re in a technology company and you have a new gizmo you want to send me, for free, you’re certainly welcome to do so. Baby loves toys, and I have no shame.

Other news: Sold the Chinese rights to Old Man’s War (mainland, not Taiwan). Between this and the Russian rights, I’m now represented on a good two-thirds of the continent of Asia. I can’t wait to see what the book looks like in Chinese, although, just like the Cyrillic, I haven’t a chance in Hell of actually understanding it. They could send me the Bejing phone book with some SF artwork slapped on the cover, tell me it was my book, and I’d just grin stupidly and be happy. Sometimes being monolingual blows.

Also, I have my first e-mail report of a Ghost Brigades landing, at Diane’s Books in Greenwich, Connecticut. We’re just a week away from the official release anyway so it should start appearing on shelves most places. If any of you want to send along a picture when you see it, you’d make me a happy boy.

34 Comments on “Scalzi Sells Out to Sprint and the Chinese, and Other Tales”

  1. I pre-ordered Ghost Brigades from Amazon and just checked my order status. Despite the fact that they say it’ll be available 2/21, they don’t plan to ship it till 2/27. Reminding me once again of why I never bother to pre-order stuff from Amazon, despite my absolute love for them in all other situations.

  2. I wish I could be a corporate whore.

    Also, congrats on the Chinese translation. Question, do the Chinese demand censorship of the book?

  3. I have no idea if they will censor it in some way or another. I don’t imagine so, if for no other reason that China as country doesn’t enter into the story one way or another. But I suppose I’ll have to wait until I see the contracts to see definitively.

  4. First hit’s free, man. God damn the pusherman.

    Actually, I’m in the same boat as you, except that I *used* to find my cell phone useful, so I still have one. Its main function these days is to sit in my pocket and tell the time.

    I hope your outing with the your new laser-emitting toy doesn’t wind up with you shackled to the little demon. Be careful. Remember what happened to Persephone (the Greek mythological character, not the pretty but slightly grim sentient program from the Matrix).

  5. I couldn’t see why I needed a cell either, until I had one. Sometime soon you’ll find yourself thinking “Better call (whoever) when I get home. Oh wait, I can do it right now. Huzzah!”

    Also, the air-waves from those things give you super-powers. Or brain-tumors, I forget which.

  6. Бригады Привидения = Ghost Brigades

    Война Старого Человека = Old Man’s War

    鬼魂旅团 = The Ghost Brigades

    老人的战争= Old Man’s War

  7. Wonderful gadgetry on that phone, no? There’s probably a personal organizer and a calendar somewhere in among all those menu pages, too. A veritable Swiss-Army knife of a phone.

    Didja ever notice that Swiss-Army knives really just aren’t that good as knives? Too bulky, really, for a keychain, except for the version designed as a keychain, and it’s too small to be much use, while it’s also difficult to sharpen.

    I wish some cell-phone maker would stop for a while and think about what they’re doing. I wish they’d think, “hey, this is, um, a telephone. Maybe we should ditch the camera and the music player and the blender and the curling iron, and work on making it a better telephone?”

    How about making it a two-number phone? With all those fancy, annoy-your-neighbor ringtones, how about if it goes “bloop” when it’s business, and “bleep” when it’s personal? How about blocking calls?

    In fact, how about all the things I can do with a land-line phone that can’t be done with a cell phone? I mean, the camera’s nice and all, but I’d way rather have a more functional phone in the first place.

    So why tell you? Eh, just an opportunity to bitch and moan about a pet peeve. Who knows, maybe you’ll get annoyed too, about first making sure it’s a better phone before adding all the gizmos, and maybe you’ll tell Sprint, and maybe they’ll listen to you.

    And maybe a nest-building pig will hit you in the head while you’re distracted by the cell phone.

  8. I dunno, Gabe. If you get a BrainPal now, you’ll be in the same boat as the first person to get a fax machine. And then, as they become more popular and the feature set expands, you’ll just have early adopter regret.

  9. You have no idea how dissapointed I was to find out that the phone does not actually contain a laser pointer…

  10. Congrats. Old Man’s War really fits in with current Chinese tastes in SF, I think. May I ask which publisher you sold it to?

  11. zhwj: Science Fiction World. I don’t know much about the publisher, I’m afraid, but if this article is about the same publisher (and it’s accurate), they’ve got an SF magazine that has a circulation of 500,000, which is roughly five times the circulation of the top three sf magazines here in the US combined. The mind boggles.

  12. John:

    I have no idea if they will censor it in some way or another. I don’t imagine so, if for no other reason that China as country doesn’t enter into the story one way or another. But I suppose I’ll have to wait until I see the contracts to see definitively.

    I’m far from an expert in Asian cultures, but my impression has always been that they treat the elderly with a great deal of respect (more so than we typically do here). I’d be very curious about what they’ll think of the “rejuvenating old people” meme in your books…

    Oh, and as for sightings: I asked about TGB at my local Barnes & Noble. They told me that the release date was 2/21, but that they currently had zero copies on order (stupid Barnes & Noble). Anyway, this was interesting: if I wanted a copy, they’d have been willing to order me one & contact me when it arrives. What would stop me, theoretically speaking, from telling them I wanted 20 copies, and then ignoring their message when they call? And if I disappeared after requesting a bunch of copies, would they just give in & put them on the shelves?

    <evil laugh>

  13. I want a free phone too! Sprint, read my blog! Wait, what? My wife works for Sprint, so I can’t have one. Oh. Damn.

    No matter, I’m not a real person anyway, just an automated marketing program that seeds blogs with comments to drum up hype for the video game industry. Don’t forget Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter drops on March 7th. Buy it at a retailer near you!

    Sue, I also preordered TGB from Amazon and have been told to expect it the first week of March. Damn free shipping! Damn Sprint! Petey, save me!

  14. and blue-green high-energy laser

    Dick Cheney’s hunting partner can consider himself lucky that Cheney didn’t have one of these here phones, then.

  15. I wish some cell-phone maker would stop for a while and think about what they’re doing. I wish they’d think, “hey, this is, um, a telephone. Maybe we should ditch the camera and the music player and the blender and the curling iron, and work on making it a better telephone?”

    The reason’s pretty simple, actually. I only want to carry around one gizmo. I’m a gadget junkie, but the most important thing to me is that any gadget that I rely on has to be on my person all of the time. I switched from a cell phone and Sony Clie NZ-90 combination to a Treo 650 about a year ago, and I love it. The fact that I have one device which I use for all of the following is really pretty amazing:Phone (and as others have mentioned, any decent cell phone these days supports just about every service a landline does)Book reader (the technology’s still not there yet for mass adoption, but it’s good enough for me — I rarely read any paper books anymore)Camera (yeah, it’s a crappy camera, but I’m no photographer anyway)CalendarMusic player (with a 1GB SD card and PocketTunes, my Treo negates any interest I might have had in a seperate MP3 player)ContactsWeb Browsing (pretty crappy as well, as it’s both slow (damn America’s lack of 3G networks — although that’s finally starting to change) and the screen’s too small — but certainly useful in a pinch)To do lists (with alarms and everything — invaluable for me, as I tend to be pretty forgetful about stuff I need to do when the necessity is not staring me in the face)Constantly updated weather forecastsSeriously, it’s like living in the future, man.It’s not perfect of course. I’m not really the target market for the Treo. I don’t use the keyboard nearly enough to justify the space it takes up on the case. I’d love to see a Treo with a 640×480 screen and no keyboard, but there probably aren’t a whole lot of people who agree with me. Still though, it’s a pretty damn amazing collection of functionality, and just because it’s not the best possible device for most of its uses doesn’t negate the fact that having them all in a package the size of deck of cards is damn handy.

  16. Hmm, actually, it can’t, John. At least, not according to the i860 manual (available online in pdf format). Not a word about second lines or call blocking.

    Michele, I’m not talking about different rings for different people. I’m talking about two phone numbers making the one phone ring differently, one line for business, one for personal calls, irrespective of who is actually calling. It goes “bloop” instead of “bleep” because the caller dialed the business number instead of the personal number, so I know this call is business, not personal, just from the ring.

    And of course, if I’m placing a call, I’d need/want to select which line the call is going out on, so that caller-ID functions correctly.

    Blocking seems simple enough: I don’t want to take this person’s calls, don’t ring the phone, just send ’em to voicemail, or just never answer. I can block a number on my land line, why not on a cell phone? Nobody offers that.

    I can get separate numbers for business and personal calls likewise. Those things are way more useful to me than a silly camera, but I haven’t come across a cell phone that can do these elementary phone things.

  17. SFW is the heavyweight. There are probably three places they could publish the translation – (1)serialized in the magazine (unlikely, but they did it last year with Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy over three months or so); (2) in a bimonthly translation supplement that usually runs one piece of long form fiction and several novellas and short stories; (3) or as part of their World SF Masters book series. I suppose the contracts will specify the details.

    If you’re talking to SFW rather than the Sichuan Science & Technology Press itself, I’d guess the second option, although the novels they select tend to be older, more established “classics.” The SFW-Translations current issue has Terry Pratchett’s The Light Fantastic; last issue was Lord of Light by Zelazny, and last year a Stainless Steel Rat novel showed up.

    If it’ll be out as a book, it’ll show up in stores across China; they also sell by mail order. Take a look at that link for some idea of the cover art they use.

  18. The contract details I have (apart from the contract itself, which I don’t have) specifies unit sales, so I imagine it’ll be sold as a stand-alone book.

    zhwj, if you pick up the book in Chinese you’ll have to let me know how the translation is. I’m curious as to how they will adapt it.

  19. David,A quick google for “two line cell phone” led me to this page from Mr. Scalzi’s new corporate overlords (in their Nextel guise anyway).I don’t know about call blocking — I wasn’t sufficiently interested to get around all the results concerning blocking one’s outgoing Caller ID information that “call block cell phone” returns….

  20. Clearly David and Justin Anderson want different phones.

    The phone makers are competing to pack more and more features into their phones, making them more and more Justin-friendly. But there’s also a market, mostly ignored, for a David phone, one that’s smaller and/or a better phone, not just a camera phone without the camera installed.

    If they dump the camera, MP3 player, full keyboard, whatever, they should be able to make a phone that’s much smaller/thinner, has a longer battery life, and is a better telephone. Then they can add back those features that don’t make the phone bigger or the battery smaller – maybe contact list, basic calendar, text messaging.

    The feature I’m waiting for is flexibility. I mean literal flexibility, a phone that bends slightly so I can sit down while it’s in my pocket.

  21. Clearly David and Justin Anderson want different phones.Truth.And I certainly agree that it would be nice if cell phone companies were willing to oblige both of us (but since I don’t have my ideal phone yet, I won’t hesitate to jump up and down childishly yelling me first!). I do think David’s in a tougher position though, since he’s asking for advanced features (relative to what’s currently standard — while some phones obviously do support multiple lines, I don’t think my monstrosity of a Treo is one of ’em) — but only the ones he wants.I think the reality of the marketplace at this point, when new features are being added to phones all the time, that it just makes sense for manufacturers to dump all (or at least a significant portion) of the advanced features into their high end phones. Sure, David only wants a phone — but one that’s more capable than most existing phones. I’m sure that there are folks out there who would love a phone that was just a basic phone but also included a web browser (and no other extra features).Unfortunately, I don’t think manufacturers can really justify making models to target all the niche markets out there — which is too bad, as that’s the same reason I don’t have my big screen, keyboardless Treo.

  22. When will Война Старого Человека appear? I didn’t see it at Amazon… do you know if they will carry it?

  23. That’s terribly exciting about the Chinese translation! Any idea of the release date? I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for it here in the bookshops.

  24. Hey just to let you know, I picked up The Ghost Brigades in Glasgow, Scotland at an Forbidden Planet on the 16th of Feb. I live in the U.S. was was waiting for the 21st to get it, but happend to be in Scotland visiting family. It was a pleasant surprise to see it on the shelf, there was only one copy so grabbed it. Was it released in the U.K. before the U.S.?

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  26. Scalzi, I’m a SF fan from China and have been reading your Old Man’s War recently. I have to say, it’s well written. So good!

    One of my friends have been translating your novel into Chinese from two weeks ago. And you can look at this site:, where your work is introduced to Chinese readers.