Shortly Before The Explosion

A young child with a soda and a packet of pop rocks! What could possibly go wrong?

Oh, yes, well. There is that.

What happened next startled the cats and required a bucket and several sponges. Several.

Oscars, Campbells, Claire Light, Joe Hill, Amnesty International, Shenandoah

This seems to be the week for aggregate entries, doesn’t it?

*Today is usually the day when I usually write a follow-up entry about my Oscar predictions, to make any adjustments to the predictions I made when the nominations came out. However, this year I find I have nothing new to add: the Oscar landscape hasn’t changed in any appreciable way since nomination day. So, in case you missed it: My predictions.

*For those of you who will be voting on Hugos and Campbell nominations (there’s about a week left to get in your votes), here’s a handy site to let you know who is eligible for the Campbell this year. The Campbell, just to remind all y’all, is the award for the best new SF writer. Yes, I am eligible, as are Merrie Haskell, Justine Larbalestier, David Moles, Sarah Monette, Cherie Priest, Chris Roberson and other worthies. We all rule.

*Claire Light uses a review of The Ghost Brigades as a springboard to discuss war and literature and how one can read military SF such as I’ve written and still have deep-seated philosophical issues with war: “You should simply be letting yourself enjoy the action, oohing and aahing over how cool the guns are, and then walk-of-shaming back to your public debate with a broken bra-strap, realizing that the seductiveness of war isn’t so much evil as human.”

I think this is an interesting point to make; my take on it (which may not be Claire’s) is that needing to philosophically examine the issue of war every time you take in a military SF book would be like needing to have a philosophical examination of alcoholism every time you drank a beer. You could, but then you’d probably end up drinking alone.

*Incidentally, if any of the librarians who read the Whatever would be so kind as to send me the review of The Ghost Brigades that’s apparently in the 3/1 edition of Booklist, you would be my new best friend. Thanks.

*I was recently given a copy of 20th Century Ghosts, which is a collection of short stories by writer Joe Hill (no relation, one imagines, to the controverisal Wobblie activist, nor, I suspect, to the kid I went to high school with who had the same name, because although I’m sure he grew to fine manhood, at the time it was doubtful he was literate in any meaningful sense). These stories are largely in the horror genre, and I’m happy to say they’re spooking the holy living crap out of me, in that “read a story and then set the book down and wiggle your fingers to get the creepy out of them” sort of way. Which is naturally what you want in this particular genre. I’m not a huge horror reader, but I know good horror when I read it (and also, good writing), and this would be that. If you’re ready to be deeply creeped, I would recommend this. Also, I have to salute any writer sneaky enough to slip a story into the book in an unexpected place as a way to reward the people who read oft-ignored portions (as I do).

The one drawback here is that this collection’s publisher, PS Publishing, is based out of the UK, so finding the book in the usual online channels is a little more difficult than it should be: It’s not on Amazon or However, it looks like Clarkesworld Books has it in trade paperback and in signed hardcover. Both appear to be limited editions, so you know the drill on that (you can also find it at Shocklines and Camelot Books). Check it out and enjoy.

* Note to Amnesty International: One really good way not to get a contribution from the Scalzi family this year is to have your telemarketing firm call four times a day trying to reach us. Yes, I realize human rights are important, but so is my ability to look at my call waiting during my work day and not see your telemarketer’s number more than once, especially as I’ve told your donation monkeys to call after 6pm to talk to my wife, who coordinates all our charitable giving. I tell other non-profits this and they seem to get the concept. I’m not sure why you don’t.

One more day of your drones calling multiple times and I’m making a contribution to the Pinochet defense fund. Thank you. That is all.

*One of the nice things about subscribing to Rhapsody is that it is easy to call up a song and hear a dozen versions of it all at once — which is a really informative way to get to know a song. I’m currently listening to two dozen versions of the traditional song “Shenandoah,” sung by everyone from Bob Dylan to Leontyne Price. It seems that, sadly, most of the people who want to sing the song actually can’t sing the song — it really is designed for people with truly magnificent voices (for example, Ms. Price and also Paul Robeson) who also have some concept of phrasing. And you say “duh, aren’t all songs?” Well, yes, but some songs can tolerate bad singing and phrasing better than others, while others reward truly good singing. This song falls in the latter category.

One of my favorite versions of the song, incidentally, is the version by the Yale Spizzwinks acapella group: I think the guy in front is over-emoting a bit, but the song really lends itself to an acapella rendition, enough so that I think any other instruments sort of distract from it, which is not a good thing as so many versions feature plinky-plink “Americana”-style banjo/mandolin/guitar/whatever. Other versions feature that sort of overbearing orchestration that I associate with classic Disney animation, and that’s no good, either. The human voice: Good. Everything else: Not so much. Not that anyone listens to me.

* Remember to get your suggestions in Reader Request Week 2006. Leave your requests in the linked thread, not here. There are some good requests in there already, but there are always room for more. Thanks.