Reader Request Week 2006: Get Your Requests In

Once a year — usually when I find myself running out of things to say myself — I throw open the floor to Whatever readers to offer topics for a Reader Request Week, in which (as the name suggests) I write on subjects readers want to know what I think about. I’ve done this for the last three years and have gotten some great topic ideas. Because Whatever readers totally rock, man.

So: Want me to write on a particular topic? Suggest it in the comment thread. I’ll start putting up entries based on reader suggestions on Monday. I usually do one a day, but if I get a bunch of really excellent topics (and so far, I usually do), who knows.

What topics can you suggest? Why, any topic you like, of course. Nothing’s out of bounds to ask (I just won’t answer it if I don’t want to. See? Easy). And as you all know, it’s not like I have a problem writing about controversial or questionable topics. Look, I never plan on holding elected office, and if I ever do, it’s not like I don’t already have a paper trail as wide as the mighty Mississippi. So it really doesn’t matter. Ask away, folks.

So you don’t repeat subjects, allow me here to link to previous reader request topics:

From 2003:

Reader Request #1: The Middle East
Reader Request #2: Life Online
Reader Request #3: TV
Reader Request #4: Testing Preschoolers
Reader Request #5: Jealousy
Reader Request #6: Immigration
Reader Request #7: Ohio
Reader Request #8: Writing
Reader Request Wrapup

From 2004:

Reader Request Week 2004 #1: Boys and Girls
Reader Request 2004 #2: The Meaning of Life
Reader Request 2004 #3: Can Writing Be Taught?
Reader Request 2004 #4: Fatherhood and Pie
Reader Request 2004 #5: Objective Newspeople
Reader Request Week 2004 Wrapup

From 2005:

Reader Request Week 2005: Creative Commons and FanFic
Reader Request Week 2005: Peak Oil
Reader Request 2005: Beatles, Batman and They
Reader Request 2005: Pot!
Reader Request 2005: Odds and Ends

And there you have it.

Get your requests in, and we’ll start getting busy on Monday!

66 Comments on “Reader Request Week 2006: Get Your Requests In”

  1. James Buchanan vs. George W. Bush in a death match: Who’d win?

    Horny nuns.

    Isn’t Shirley Manson one of the best lyricists of the last ten years? (This has absolutely NOTHING to do with my latent redhead or chicks with bad attitudes fetishes.)

    Why isn’t their something recent similar to the new BATTLESTAR GALACTICA in print? (Media tie-ins d not count.) It’s the only show I’d skip THE WIRE or DEADWOOD for.

    The Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire. Discuss.

  2. Librarians who have either rocked your world, or scared you off libraries. Or, why you love libraries. Or why libraries suck.

  3. Rick…of course books will always be around! They just might look a little different than what we’re used to. Or, did you P-books (print/paper). Andrei Codrescu recently addressed the American Library Association was asked about print books. I think everyone expected the poet to shout “books forever!” Instead he said something like, “well, print has had a pretty long run. it’s about done for.” I wish I had the transcript–it was something else!

  4. Rural America vs. Urban America.

    Things you know intellectually but can’t accept emotionally.

    Your first sexual experience (where you weren’t alone, ‘natch).

  5. Every writer I’ve heard from dreads the question “Where do you get your ideas”. (Barry Longyear once replied, “From a P.O. Box in Schenectady”.) That said, do you have any really good stories about the inspiration of a particular story?

  6. Why do you think the anti-democrat phrase “tax and spend liberal” has so much impact, and yet also has no equal or offsetting anti-conservative label?

  7. Here’s a question for you, as the father of an elementary-aged kid. A co-worker recently noticed that his young daughters have little math homework and classwork and then saw the following in a letter to the editor to his local paper (in WA state):

    “The central cause of our children’s growing incompetence in math is the schools’ use of the whole-math approach. They have embraced an unproven, controversial, progressive-education theory called ‘constructivism’, which maintains that all mathematical knowledge is arbitrarily constructed. They reject the idea that there are objectively demonstrable right and wrong answers, and as a consequence, they do not teach basic math skills. Instead, students are asked to work in groups to invent their own math ‘strategies’ by using a ‘guess-and-check’ approach.”

    Thoughts on that? Many concerned parents around here have had to resort to buying their own math books and doing remedial lessons at home.

  8. Some time ago my brother posted some pictures online of our older sister’s two children, including their full names. My wife saw it, freaked out, notified older sister about it, and within a few days the pictures were taken down.

    When I heard about the situation, I at first was a bit curious why it was a problem, since I’d been reading about Athena here on the Whatever all the time. So I wonder, what fast and hard rules do you think there are to putting kids’ information online. Granted, a parent should have more control than other family members in such matters, but does it make a difference if one lives in a rural or (sub)urban location, has an unlisted number, or other factors.

  9. Zen, eastern mysticism in general

    Fusion power, when are we really going to see it?

    Transhumanism. Uploading consciousness to a computer. Would you do it if you could?

    What comes after Bush? (Aside from the big party.)

    If you were in charge of space exploration, what would you do next?

    Public schools vs. private schools vs. homeschooling. Effectiveness and the issue of funding.

  10. The future of the Leviticans (and all they oppose), and the seemingly growing relationship between far-right-wing fundies and the GOP.

  11. Copyright, copyleft, Creative Commons, EFF, FreeCulture, open source, etc. What is your take on the direction that the swelling “free for all”-minded generation is going to take us? Seems I can’t log onto the Internets lately without hearing about how more and more people are not only expecting to get stuff (music, literature, software, etc) for free, but on the other side of the spectrum there is an equally fast-growing number of folks who are creating their own stuff and giving it away for free as a matter of course.

    And mixing with that is the metastasis of user-created and user-expanded web 2.0 communal sharing – someone creates something, slaps a CC on it, throws it out open source to the community at large to tinker around with and before you can say Bob’s your mum’s brother you’ve got Mozilla or WordPress or Rollyo.

    I know you’re generally in favor of such attitudes, but what I’m interested in is a discussion about what it means in the long view. Is this the way of the future, a fad, a New World Order, a sign of the Apocalypse or just a bus stop on the road to realtime-communally-tweaked singularity? How is this all going to affect the way the world works when Athena is our age?

  12. If you could do anything in the world with your life, regardless of whether or not you have any real-life skill in that arena (i.e., assume you’d be good at it, or that being good at it wouldn’t matter), what would you be doing?

    When did you first realize (or decide) that you were really a writer?

    When did you first feel your mortality? Or have you yet? Or maybe just start feeling “old,” somehow?

  13. Oh, and BTW (heh), you’re a big meanie for making me read all of those old posts.

    So I might not, just to spite you. :-P

  14. Iain M Banks is an unapologetic communist. He also writes excellent sci-fi novels. (I recomend “Use of Weapons”) In many of his novels he describes a special group within a society that goes to more primitive worlds and meddles with them so as to make them more like their own culture. In the real world he recently called for Tony Blair to be removed from office for his role in the Iraq war.

    What is up with this?

    Note you probably would have had to read some of his books to know what I am talking about.

  15. I would like to second Eric B’s question about the safety of putting your kid on the internet. I happen to not see any problems with publishing kids’ names and pictures, but I know there are people who freak out enormously about this. And I’m not sure what they’re worried about. And if perhaps I should be freaking out, too.

  16. Either a riff on Eric B & marrije’s questions, or maybe a new question in its own right:

    Why have we changed so much, in the past 20 years, about how we protect our kids? And what is (or would be) going too far?

    One example: As kids, my brothers and I would spend all day riding our bikes around the neighborhood, playing with other kids and generally having a ton of self-directed fun. Today, that just wouldn’t be acceptable — kids need to be supervised all the time, seemingly into at least middle school.

    Is your experience similar? And what do you think it means for the kids and parents, both now, and as the kids grow up?

  17. I recently got engaged. I’m moving in with my fiance in a few months (once I graduate from the University of Florida in May). Any advice on what I can expect, and most importantly, what I should not do?

  18. The part we rarely read about here is your video game geek side. I’m assuming you still write for OPM, but even if you don’t, that kind of geekiness just doesn’t go away. So, I have a bunch of questions. 1.) Are games worse (less original, shorter, less creative) now that the industry has gotten so successful? 2.) Launch of the 360 this early, good or bad? 3.) What games are you enjoying now? 4.) What are the 5 games you would willingly go through memory loss for, so that you could replay them with new eyes?

    Of course, no reader request week would be complete without revisting cake vs. pie. Kidding.

  19. Ok, so do you think that the huge surge in popularity for R.K. Milholland’s web comic “Something Positive” ( with it’s themes of powerlessness, hopelessness, dispair for the human condition and acts of random violence, show that many ‘net users are becomming disenchated and disenfranchised by the current global social climate?

    And, do you think that the general public as customers are far more abusive and rude to retail staff than they were ten years ago?

  20. Superhero movies: what do they get right and wrong?

    Science Fiction versus Fact: when is one more important to a story than the other?

  21. Do you think there will ever be a viable 3rd party in Amercian politics?

    On the same note do you think we will see either party collapse and reform in the near future?

  22. The whole Chabonesque “genre fiction versus ‘literary’ fiction” thingy. Are boundaries between them useful? Morph this into a general discussion of where you see fiction headed, if you like.

  23. I’m interested in how you describe your relationship with music. You’ve done some composition I know but do you play music on a regular basis? And how would you describe your tastes in music?

    So I’m music-obsessed, sue me….

    rob t.

  24. I’ve always been curious as to what constitutes good music to a critic/reviewer. What makes something good and something else crap? What is the process? Criteria? How much does personal preference play into the decision?

  25. What are your favorite words? Not necessarily words you use with any frequency, but words that make your scalp tingle appreciatively when you see them. Conversely, what are your least favorite words, those that are the linguistic equivalent of finding a hair in your soup?

    (One of my personal favorites is “revenant.” It’s a ghost, but it’s more than that. It’s like “remnant,” but it has that emphatic “v” sound in it that, as genre readers know, suggests malevolence or all-purpose creepiness. Least favorite: expressivity. Not sure why, but that word grates on me.)

  26. Unjustly overlooked books and movies.

    (I’d include music but I find musical taste far too idiosyncratic for such things to really be useful. But, if someone else wants it, feel free to ask.)

  27. Where do you think writers should be, technology-wise? With your presence on this blog, and your forays into online distribution and publishing, you probably are in the upper .n% of technologically-capable writers. And we don’t tend to hear too much these days from writers who insist on pecking things out on an Underwood. What’s the minimum technical competence at present? e-mail? online research? regexp formulation? How much does technology help (or hinder) writing? Obviously this will depend subject matter and such, but is it still possible to buy envelopes and stamps and have that be your connection to the publishing world?

  28. When did the judiciary become so political? Activist judges here, there, and everywhere!!

    I once sat on a jury, and when we were done, we explained our verdict a little to the judge. He didn’t care, and I was impressed because I realized that it was his job not to care, one way or the other. His duty was to render fair justice, without any personal bias at all.

    So why is it now that being a judge, at any level, seems to be another Red State/Blue State dichotomy thingy? Rather than being just another technical sort of job?

  29. Two areas I would like to get your take on. One may cause a firestorm of opinions. That is the use of religion to manipulate people for war, money, and power.
    The other one results from a problem I caused. I had the balls to write about my inlaws on my blog and it caused lots of problems. Where is the balance between honesty, revealing the truth, and just shutting up and being nice despite a perceived wrong that can lead to hard consequences.

  30. If you could change places with anyone for a certain length of time, with whom would you choose to swap?

    Now that a number of your life goals have been achieved, what would you say are five things you still want to do before you die?

    From a SF writer’s perspective, what futuristic technologies do you think we should be pursuing?

    George Bush: great president, or the greatest president? (OK, so I stole that one from Stephen Colbert…)

  31. Podcasting. Do you ever listen to podcasts? You don’t commute much, so they might not have much draw for you.

    Would you consider submitting a short story to the Escape Pod?

    Who would you like to hear read one of your stories?

  32. Having just finished reading The Ghost Brigades last night, I had an offhand thought.

    We already know that you’re planning on writing a third book in this series-which-is-not-a-series, but I’m curious: would you ever consider “loaning out” the world you’ve built for a series of paperback originals?

    I realize, off the cuff, that as well as the books have done, they’d probably have to do even better for Tor to consider something like this. But looking at my own bookshelf, I’ve got a couple of Buffy tie-ins, some Babylon 5 tie-ins, a few V books… you get the idea.

    For that matter, how would you feel about your family and/or friends carrying on the universe once you’re dead, ala Dune?

  33. This isn’t really an “entry” request but I’m positive you had a number of links to other sites/blogs on your sidebar once, many Whatever-moons ago. You’re pretty generous in your pimpage of other sites however it’s done on a somewhat random basis; any chance you’ll add your “favorites” back to the sidebar?

  34. For that matter, how would you feel about your family and/or friends carrying on the universe once you’re dead, ala Dune?

    Related topic request: Why don’t more authors put a “sucky writers shall not seduce my heirs with promises of fame, in order to get their grubby sucky hands on my IP… at least not until it’s Public Domain” into their will? The Tolkein Kid wasn’t SOOO bad… but Brian Herbert should be executed for crimes against the Spacing Guild.

  35. Why are movie adaptations of SF novels generally so awful? Would you want to see movies from your novels? If yes, how would you prevent Hollywood from ruining them?

  36. i second:

    1. your childhood
    2. a good story of the inspiration for a story
    3. current best SF writers
    4. “genre” versus “lit” fic

  37. Harry Potter

    Lord of the Rings


    kids today-too many video games, too much tv, or are they still reading enough?

  38. First, I second what Brandon asked about video games. A similar series of questions were posited for last year’s readers’ request week…but ignored.

    Second, how much public funding should be used to build gigantic cool-ass science stuff, and when does it become pork? That is, how advanced would our understanding be of subatomic physics if we had finished that supercondensing supercollider (or was it the supercolliding supercondenser?) in Texas last decade? Should Athena’s tax dollars be used to help out these guys (or if not those specific guys, other scientific thinkers, builders, and dreamers)? And if we do build space elevators, will you petition the government to name the first one after you? If your Congressman argued that failure to fund such projects leaves us poorer, would you interpret that as rhetoric or an earnest appeal for humanity’s enlightenment?

    Finally, sometimes love goes sour. What was the first song you loved, then realized it really sucked?

    These are always fun. Thanks.

  39. What’s the weirdest thing you believe?

    Do you have a writing habit that’s irrational, but you stick to it anyway (like the baseball player who has the same three hour pre-game routine, involving a specific meal, etc etc)?

    If space tourism takes off in the next decade or two, will you be signing up?

  40. Your thoughts on Heinlein, on his inspiration – not only to your writing, but also to the foundation he laid for the entire hard-SF subgenre… perhaps thoughts on writing in/expanding on his “future history” setting (is that blasphemy? Tell me honestly that you wouldn’t want to buy/read it.)

  41. I know this is a bit late, but your recent difficulties with Firefox reminded me of this question.
    I would like to second the request for a post on Macs and thier strengths/weaknesses.
    I’ve always considered myself a PC-gal, but recently I’ve had troubles with computers slowed by background crap running. This Christmas I watched my mum unpack her new iMac and marvelled at the gorgeous packaging (both computer and cardboard box). These two factors have me unexpectedly sitting on the PC/Mac fence.
    I’m tired of Mac-vangelists. Obviously they sometimes have problems.
    What is the straight scoop on Macs?

  42. Being a relative newbie to your blog, I have a simple question that you may have commented on in the past. Do you love any books or movies, that you feel “flew under the radar. For me two quickly come to mind, the book: ZOD WALLOP & the movie CAPRICORN ONE.

  43. I loved OMW and I just ordered Ghost Brigades. Can you recommend 10 books for a lover of OMW?

  44. Having been a videogame journalist for some time, I would assume you’re keeping tabs to at least some degree on the industry itself. That said, what do you think about Nintendo’s potentially risky gamble to eschew better visuals (at this point not as significant an upgrade as in previous generations) in favor of other, non-graphics-related upgrades? And do you think that their refusal to do the “let’s put everything imaginable into a silver box and charge half a grand for it even though nobody will use it for anything but videogames and maybe movies early on” thing will help or hurt them in the end?

  45. Singularity.

    Technophile hype? Or should I be preparing myself to end my days in an exhibit next to a Silverback?

  46. As a sequel to your article on the book to movie conversion. In your perfect world if holywood made Old Man’s War into a movie who would you want to play what role?

  47. John,

    I’m a journalism student, an assistant editor for the school newspaper and also work for a “real” newspaper (though as a Web guy, not a journalist).

    My question is: What advice can you share with others who want to be like Scalzi one day? Not so much writing tips (I can’t wait until your on writing book comes out), but rather just … life things. College advice, life advice, whatever.


  48. What is your opinion on the Fair Tax? It seems to have been recieving a fair amount of press recently, and im curious about your take on it.

  49. Does writing fiction require a significantly different process for you than writing non-fiction? For example, do you need to isolate yourself more and not read other fiction in the meantime? Do you need larger blocks of uninterrupted time?

    Thanks! Looking forward to buying your writing book.

  50. Have you ever had a question about science for your writing? How did you find someone who could answer your questions?

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