Reading Brought Back from Worldcon, Plus Book-Pimpery


If you don’t get some new reading material when you’re at a Worldcon, you’re basically an idiot. So here’s some of the reading material I’ve picked up. From left:

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow: Cory, who wuz robbed — robbed! — of the Hugo this year (albeit by Peter Beagle, a very fine person and writer) has banged out a YA novel that is really excellent so far. Personally it had me by the second paragraph, when it described a high school vice-principal as “a sucking chest wound of a human being.” I knew vice-principals like that, I have to say. It’ll be a little bit of a while before Little Brother gets to the rest of you, so allow me to say: Neener neener neener, I get to read it and you don’t. But you’ll want to, when it finally hits the stores.

The Totally Geeky Guide to The Princess Bride by MaryAnn Johanson: I totally have a secret online crush on MaryAnn Johnson, who runs the FlickFilosopher web site, one of my favorite movie sites online. Some time ago Johanson got a deal to write short, fun guides on popular movies for a book publisher, but then that publisher closed up shop before the books came out. So she figured, well, it’s good enough, I’ll put it out myself. And here we are with a geeky guide to The Princess Bride, which Johanson is (appropriately) really geeky about.

And she’s right; it is good enough — and more than that, actually. It’s a funny and fast overview about the things people love about Princess Bride; it nods towards deeper themes in the film and mostly appraoches the film affectionately and fondly, looking at what it is that makes that film more than just a pleasant way to spend 90 minutes or so. Personally speaking, I’m not as geeky about The Princess Bride as Johanson is, but her enthusiasm for the film is catching, and a kick to read.

If the book does well enough, Johanson is considering adding to the series. So here’s hoping it does well enough.

Echelon, by Josh Conviser: As I noted in my Worldcon wrap-up piece, I got the chance to meet Josh after a particularly contentious panel, and chatting with him and Deanna Hoak gave me a chance to wind down without strangling someone. So I was readily anticipating checking out his novel. I’ve literally just started the first couple of pages, so I’ll have to report on the whole thing later, but it’s got a hell of a premise, which is basically that Echelon, the spy program the US uses to keep track of nefarious foreigners, has expanded in the near future to become something of an electronic big brother. This cuts down on things like war, which is good, but also, you know, also cuts down on things like personal freedom, which is bad.

Josh has the extraordinary good fortune of having the book drop at exactly the right time — i.e., when we’re having serious discussions in the real world about how far our government should be able to invade our privacy for the sake of safety and security. Every author should be so lucky. Anyway, it looks really interesting, so I’m looking forward to digging in.

Having thus pimped my reading, I invite you to do the same: Pimp a book or other reading material you’re loving in the last few weeks. Doesn’t have to be new, just interesting. Also: Don’t pimp your own book — there’ll undoubtedly be a self-pimp thread coming along soon. Share the love, friends. Share the love.


מלחמת האדם הזקן

You’re looking here at the cover of the Hebrew edition of Old Man’s War, which as far as I know is the first foreign-language edition of the book to hit the streets. I snagged it from this online Hebrew bookstore, which in turn was forwarded to me by Whatever reader Abigail Nussbaum. Thanks Abigail! Someone who knows Hebrew will have to tell me what that page says, and if, indeed, “סקאלזי ג`ון” is, as I suspect, my name in Hebrew.

The Israeli publisher is obliged to send copies of the novel my way; I can’t wait to get a copy in my own little hands. Having one’s first foreign edition is cool.


Word Choices

The new GOP buzzword: Fascism

President Bush in recent days has recast the global war on terror into a “war against Islamic fascism.” Fascism, in fact, seems to be the new buzz word for Republicans in an election season dominated by an unpopular war in Iraq.

Bush used the term earlier this month in talking about the arrest of suspected terrorists in Britain, and spoke of “Islamic fascists” in a later speech in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Spokesman Tony Snow has used variations on the phrase at White House press briefings…

White House aides and outside Republican strategists said the new description is an attempt to more clearly identify the ideology that motivates many organized terrorist groups, representing a shift in emphasis from the general to the specific.

Leaving aside the fact that this administration’s own irritatingly authoritarian tendencies continually need to be kept in check by the judiciary, allow me to say that I wish my president and his brain trust had a better plan to combat our enemies than just attempting to rebrand them. Perhaps if they had a plan, we could call them what they are: Terrorists. But they apparently don’t. And here we are.


The Scalzi Award

Here I am with fellow Campbell nominee Brandon Sanderson (whose excellent Elantris and Mistborn you ought to go buy, like, now), who clutches the first (and probably only) Scalzi award. And what is the Scalzi award? Well, I’ll tell you. During the Worldcon, I was chatting with the folks at Larry Smith booksellers, when a couple of guys came up to me and asked me if I wouldn’t mind signing a triangular-shaped piece of LEGO for them. Well, it’s not actually the most unusual autograph request I’ve ever had, so, okay. As I was signing we chatted; one of them mentioned he worked for a bookstore in Utah, and that recently they had a signing for Brandon, at which more than 200 people turned out. I think I said I wished I had turnout like that.

Fast forward to the party after the Hugo award, and finally all is revealed: The guys I was chatting with were good friends of Brandon’s, and with my signature as a guide, they crafted their writer pal the Scalzi award, a consolatory prize for losing the Campbell to me. Apparently Brandon had adopted me as his nemesis, as you can see in the following revealing photo, in which he pre-emptively curses me for winning the award which should rightfully be his (this one is good, too, because it comes complete with fist-shaking action). In my hand, incidentally, is the great pen Scalzibane, to be driven into my heart on the day Brandon defeats me in literary competition, or in mortal battle, or, perhaps, in the race to the last muffin in the green room.

All of which, I must say, endears Brandon to me immensely. I wish I were a more suitable nemesis, but I just find all of this damn funny. Brandon was the other first-year nominee on the Campbell ballot this year, so he’s got another year to make that award his. Based on his books — and the imminent threat of Scalzibane — he’s got one of my Campbell nomination slots for 2007. Get ready for sushi, Brandon.

Update: Isaac Stewart, architect of the Scalzi Award, tells his story here.


“Where Has All the Science Fiction Gone?”

A couple of weeks ago, I did a talk at the Kenton Country Library on the topic “Where Has All the Science Fiction Gone?” — it was the overall theme of a larger symposium, so I applied myself toward it. As it happens, the Cincinnati public television station sent someone to make a recording of my blatherations, and now they’ve put the entire talk — 74 minutes — online, in streaming Microsoft video format.

Here’s the page that will pop up a standalone video player (I’m currently the top feature, but I imagine that will slide down over time)

Here’s the page that will run in a browser window.

In addition to the general talk, I also read from two works: The first part of the first chapter of Old Man’s War, around about the 48-minute mark, and also “New Directives for Employee – Manxtse Relations,” a short-short story which I suspect almost none of you know about, at about the 1:04 mark. I also name drop a lot of folks, including Charlie Stross, China Mieville, Hal Duncan, David Louis Edelman and other current writing notables during the course of the talk, and make some general points about the state of science fiction today. And of course you’ll get to see me blather on for an hour and a quarter, apparently without drawing breath. It’s a skill.

Those of you who have never seen me in action are, heh, well, in for a treat, I suppose. One of the things about this video is that I stand and pace during the talk, which means that the poor cameraman always had to pan to keep up with me; sometimes I walk right out of frame and it takes him a second to catch up. It’s me, not him. Also, you’ll see that Ian McDonald’s description of me as “fidgety as a whippet” is not really exaggeration. I got tired just watching me. Also, clearly, I need to watch the “uhhhhhh” and “you know” moments. But by and large I think it’s an interesting piece, and if nothing else shows that I can extemporize at great length — which is to say I had no idea what I was going to say about anything until I opened my mouth and began to speak.

One thing: Patrick doesn’t actually call me every day. But I feel his presence. Yes I do.


Something for Future Hugo Finalists to Consider

I’m looking at the vote tallies for the Best Novel Hugo, and it turns out that Old Man’s War placed third on the final tally. Second place was Charlie Stross’ Accelerando, and first, of course, was Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin.

Question: Is it coincidence that the novels that took win, place and show for the Hugo vote were also the books made freely available in electronic editions to LACon IV members (and in the case of Accelerando, to humanity at large)?



Apropos of Nothing in Particular

Me (to Krissy): Hey, sweetheart, what would you do if someone decided to try to grope you in public?

Krissy: I think it depends.

Me: On what?

Krissy: Well, the pinky is the easiest finger to break, but breaking someone’s thumb hurts them more.

Me: There’s a broken finger involved in any event, though.

Krissy: A fractured finger, at the very least.


Blast From the Past

CBC Journalist Joe Mahoney has unearthed an interview I did with him at Torcon 3 — my first science fiction convention! — and put it online here. I note it for its anthropological interest.

Looking back over a gulf of three years almost exactly, it’s interesting to hear how tentative I was in associating myself with SF; during the course of the interview, when I speak of the SF community, I say “these people,” implicitly separating myself out from the community. Needless to say I don’t really have this tentativeness problem with SFdom anymore.


Back to School 2006

Athena’s gone back to school today. School officially started yesterday, but we had to write her a note (“Please excuse Athena for missing the first day of school. She was at Disneyland”). And to top things off, as this video shows (for those of you with RSS feeds, he says), she has a few complaints about her classes. It’s always something.


How I Spent My Summer Vacation

This is the view from the stage where the Hugos and the Campbell were given out — before the ceremony, of course (there were more people in the final audience than Laurie Mann and some motion-blurred guy). I took this picture during the rehersal portion of the day; the ceremony producers wanted to walk us through what should happen if we were to get an award, so we wouldn’t kill ourselves either getting up on the stage or walking down from it. And I figured I should get a picture then, because who knew if I would be getting up there later (well, several people knew, including at least a couple of the people walking us through our paces, because they had helped count the tallies. But I didn’t know). I’ll say that later in the evening it looked a little different.

But I’ll get to that a bit later. What follows now is a general recollection of LACon IV. As you might imagine, I liked this convention quite a bit, and a lot of fun stuff happened. Bear in mind this recounting is not likely to be chronological or even necessarily coherent, but just me banging things out as I remember them.

* I should note that before I and the rest of the Scalzi clan got to Anaheim for the convention, we spent a number of days in San Diego, visiting some of Krissy’s family and just generally relaxing. During the day Krissy and Athena went to the beach and to Sea World; I wrote a couple new chapters of The Last Colony while they were out and about. I realize that me writing on the book doesn’t sound like it constitutes vacation time, but I have to say that the change of scenery really helped me; it was a good jolt to my usual way of doing things. And I suspected that once I was in Anaheim I wouldn’t get any real writing done (I was correct about that). So it was good to get ahead. In the evening, we did family stuff. In all we had a really nice and relaxing time in San Diego, and it helps to confirm my opinion, formed a number of years earlier when I was an intern for a San Diego newspaper, that the San Diego area is where I would want to live, should I ever return to California (liklihood of me returning to California: Low. But it’s nice to have a contingency plan).

* Once we got to Anaheim, Krissy and Athena continued their plan of “do something else with the day while daddy is geeking out.” They were aided in this task by the nearby presence of two things: One, the Hilton swimming pool; two, a small, little-known local amusement park known as “Disneyland.” Yeah, I’d never heard of it before, either. Nevertheless, K&A got two-day passes for it, so while I was massively overbooked on panels and other programming on Thursday and Friday, they were off accosting Mickey. It was a fair trade in time.

Which was not to say that Krissy and Athena didn’t enjoy the convention; indeed, far from it. First, Athena, being age seven, took great pleasure in riding up and down the Anaheim Convention Center’s extraordinarily tall escalators; indeed, I daresay that as long as she had had access to the escalators, the pool and Disneyland were merely options. Athena also enjoyed her access to the dealer’s room. Here you can see her enjoying a pair of SFnal ducks, procured in the dealer’s room:

Before we came to the convention we noted to Athena that it was possible that there would be a number of people who would recognize her, thanks to her presence on the Whatever, and in particular her recent video about Pluto. And indeed she was; people came up to her saying “Hey! It’s the Pluto girl!” and otherwise noting her presence at the convention. She handled it well, or as well as any mostly normal seven-year-old would, in any event. And in general I think she enjoyed herself quite a bit, and considering it was her first convention, it was a nice introduction for her. In the exhibition center, there was a large wall divided by years, where one could sign in the year one joined fandom. Athena signed it in the 2006 section.

Krissy also enjoyed the convention, but as the primary Athena wrangler for the event was primarily occupied with that. We did manage to go out as a family for dinner with friends, and we also got babysitting for Athena on Friday and Saturday so we could enjoy some of the parties together. It was also Krissy’s first Worldcon (she’s been to a couple of Wiscons), so I had fun introducing her to people and then noting the expressions of confusion about the fact that I, a common troll, had managed to hook up with someone like her. Cory Doctorow put it best; after a dinner we had with friends, he turned to me and said, “Dude, you are totally out of your league.” My response: You think I don’t know this? Although, to be fair, Cory’s girlfriend Alice is likewise superfabulous. Dating up: A science fiction geek’s path to happiness. Now you know.

* Most of my convention daytime was given over to the participation on panels: I had eight of them (not counting my signing and my reading), and here you can see me on the “Politics and SF” panel (photo credit: Tom Suter). I thought the selection of panels I was on was… well, idiosyncratic is probably the best word; I was on a couple of medical-related panels, which was somewhat random, while I was on no film or blogging panels. Now, it’s entirely possible I expressed interest in these panels and not others (this will teach me to fill out the program participation questionaire, semi-comatose at 3:30 am), but it’s still a little weird.

At the very least, however, the panels were generally interesting. The politics and the medical panels were — as you might expect — rather contentious, although you might not have expected that the medical panels were more contentious than the politics panel. At “The Future of Medicine” panel I got myself in hot water by replying to an audience member’s assertion that we were headed toward a theocracy by saying that, in fact, we’re not (I think we’ve gone about as far in that direction as we’re going to go, personally — although I will note that the Fear of Theocracy seems to be huge in SF fandom at the moment, and I expect I’ll address that in a later entry). Later, only the direct intervention of the moderator kept me from leaping over the panelist table and hammering on some jackass audience member with a eugenic bug up his ass, who was spouting about how it was shameful that certain people were allowed to spread their filthy genes (yes, he used those words), and that they don’t have a right to do that. My response was going to be “Let me introduce you to the Constitution of the United States, you fucktard,” but the moderator rather prudently cut short that line of conversation before I could open my mouth. A smart moderator, he. Meanwhile at the “Swimming in the Gene Pool” panel I and the moderator (whose name escapes me at the moment) went around on a number of subjects while Jody Lynn Nye, who was sitting between us, listened to us bicker with a deeply amused smile on her face.

The other panels had their moments, too. On the “Extraterrestrials” panel, Geoff Landis took a hardcore position on whether there is intelligent extraterrestrial life out there — no — and then used stats to hammer at anyone daring to disagree with him (which makes it sound like Geoff was being a jerk, which he was not. He was just enjoyably adamant about his position). On the “Might Makes Right” panel, panelist JG Hertzler (who has played a number of Star Trek roles) came to the panel in a modified Nazi uniform with corporate logos where the Nazi insignia normally went, and then began to monologue about current politics until members of the audience more or less told him to shut up so that we could get back to the topic of the panel. Once Hertzler twigged to the fact that we were talking about SF more than current politics, he was a fine panelist, however, and I suspect his final statement (some clever wordplay based on a topic raised in the panel) won back a number of audience members he’d irritated earlier.

Of all the panels, the one I enjoyed the most was the “Parody, Pastiche and Humor” panel, because all the panelists were funny, we had a really good discussion about humor and SF, and the audience was loose and fun and into the subject as well. A real high point.

* I’m also happy to say that my reading seemed to go very well indeed, which I understand was unusual — not because I’m so great, but because the readings were tucked into the third floor of the Hilton, and the third floor was this dimly-lit, poorly accessible, low-ceilinged floor which no one could find unless they had actually been there before, and even then not always. Fortunately, I checked out the floor before my reading, realized no one would ever find it without actual directions, and then proceeded to give directions to everyone I saw. It also helped that I had a signing directly before my reading, so I pimped the reading to everyone in my signing line, also giving them directions. It worked, because the room filled up pretty well. I ended up reading from the first chapter of The Android’s Dream, which is fun to read from, I have to say.

* Speaking of my signing (which also went well — whee!), I’ll share with you a story which I think deserves to go down in the annals of Worldcon history. I’m signing my books next to Allen Steele, who is one of my favorite writers and also one of my favorite people in SF — he and I went to the same high school, albeit many years and 2,000 miles apart — and he mentions to me as we’re signing that his first Hugo award was at LACon III, which took place ten years ago. “Now that we’re here, and you’re up for some awards, I should pass my luck onto you,” he says, then whacks me upside the head, hard. Naturally, I’m surprised, but I’m also delighted, since for the rest of the convention I now have a way to taunt and needle Allen, because, after all, he did physically assault me. The best of these was while Allen was signing at the Asimov’s/Analog table; I had Athena walk up to the table and ask “Mr. Steele, why did you hit my daddy?” in her best sad and wee little voice. Allen looked both confused and stricken until he saw me grinning behind her, and then I suspect he was ready to whack me upside the head once more.

Of course, the really funny thing is that it worked — I did walk away with an award, after all. Now, some may say that Allen’s whack around the brain came after the vote tallies and what have you, but I say: You weren’t the one getting slapped upside the head. I suspect the mighty beat-down Allen Steele laid upon me smacked me directly into the alternate universe where I was an award winner. And for that I am grateful.

And now you know: You want to win a major SF award, Allen Steele is your man. Just bring some aspirin for afterward.

(snagged from John Joseph Adams’s flickr photostream)

* A little bit about the awards. No, I wasn’t stressed at all about the Hugo — as I mentioned earlier, I had no expectation I would win it, so I wan’t worried about it in the slightest, I just enjoyed the ride. I was majorly stressed about the Campbell, however, and I’ll tell you why, although with the caveat that what follows sounds appallingly egotistical. Ready? Okay:

The problem with being a front-runner for an award, which I was for the Campbell, is that people often appear to transmute the expectation that you may win the award into the conclusion that you will win the award, or indeed that you have won the award, and will thus address you as if your award win is already fait accompli. I don’t know how other people deal with that, but frankly, it stressed the hell out of me. There’s a difference between saying to someone “I’ve heard good things about your chances,” or such, which is perfectly fine, and saying something like “dude, you’re so totally going to win it,” which I heard variations of, or “congratulatons on your Campbell,” which more than one person said to me in the days before the actual ceremony.

To be clear: I don’t think people meant to stress me out about the Campbell — people were genuinely passing along their good wishes, and I did take those wishes in the spirit in which they were offered. Please don’t read this as a criticism of the good will people were offering to me; I am very glad they offered it, and humbled that they would. With that noted, there were two reasons the “you’re going to win” and the “you did win” phrasings got to me. The first is simply that I felt it was (very often unintentionally) minimizing the other nominees, any of whom could make a legitimate claim to the Campbell based on the quality of their writing — this was, if I may say so, a very good Campbell class — and I wasn’t comfortable with that minimizing.

The second was more personal: Dude, what if I didn’t win? It was entirely possible, you know: Chris Roberson and Sarah Monette have big online followings and also a deep pool of SF fans and friends and they were in their second year of eligibility. Brandon Sanderson, the other first-year nominee, has made quite a splash, and both Steph Swainston and KJ Bishop have a solid core of supporters from places other than the US. And as noted, all of them write to beat the devil. Yes, I knew I was the front runner; I also knew that any of these writers could push me off the heap. And if one of them did, I wasn’t looking forward to the commentary along the lines of “frontrunner John Scalzi was shockingly upset in the Campbell vote by… ” because a) given the nominee quality, it shouldn’t be shocking, and b) because I wasn’t looking forward to being a mildly tragic figure.

Again, I’m not criticizing anyone for wishing me well — I really did appreciate it, and I still do. Simply for future reference, in the unlikely event I will be a frontrunner for anything ever again, remember I’m susceptible to stress when you tell me I am going to win, rather than you think I have a good chance of winning. As one person noted, getting stressed out about being told you will win is something of a high-class problem (i.e., we should all have these problems), and I certainly agree with that. But there it is.

(image nicked from Kathryn Cramer’s Hugo Flickr Set)

* Toward this end, you know who kept me from imploding into a ball of stress about the whole Campbell thing? Sarah Monette and Chris Roberson, who were two of my fellow Campbell nominees. Both of them are friends on mine and that helped tremendously, because they were both people who were going through the same process I was, and also because they were people who I could be happy for if they won, and who I knew would be happy for me as well. Chris is damn funny, and his sense of humor about the whole process was a release valve for me and allowed me to relax, and Sarah’s incredible warmth and empathy helped keep me centered. My only real regret about the Campbell is that I can’t share it with the two of them. A three-way tie between us would have been hellaciously cool.

* I take that back. I have one other regret about the Campbell thing. My acceptance speech was basically praising my co-nominees and exhorting the audience members to stop by the dealers’ room before they left and to pick up their books, because the books rock. And I went down the list of books… and blanked on Chris Roberson’s books. Because, you know, it was all I could do not to pee myself by that time. And of course, as soon as I got off stage, I was all oh, crap, I forgot Chris’ books! And as soon as the ceremony was over I zoomed over to Chris and apologized abjectly. He was pretty good about it: “It was your Hilary Swank moment,” he said (referring to when Hilary Swank won an Oscar and forgot to mention her husband Chad). Be that as it may, I still feel bad about it, especially because those are some fine books Chris wrote.

So: Chris’ books are Here, There and Everywhere and Paragaea. Won’t you give them a good home? You won’t regret it, particularly if you like the Beatles and/or rockin’ old-school SF pastiche. You’ll get great books, and I’ll restore my karmic balance. I thank you in advance for helping my progress, however fractionally, along the Wheel of Suffering.

* Aside my own high note, I thought this particular awards ceremony moved along at a pretty good clip — Connie Willis as toastmaster and Robert Silverberg as her erstwhile nemesis were quite amusing, and most of the award winners were both gracious and brief, which is always appreciated. The most fun thing to see was David Levine win for short story; he ran up with such excited energy that he literally tore the stairs off the stage, and then proceeded to leg-hump presenter Harlan Ellison in his excitement (Ellison, it must be said, gave as good as he got with that one). It’s good when people want their awards, you know? And it really was a joy to see Robert Charles Wilson get his Hugo for Spin. He had the best line of the evening: “If I knew I was going to win an award, I would have worn better shoes” (he wore sneakers with his suit). Not to mention David Hartwell, SF’s Susan Lucci, who got his Best Editor Hugo after being nominated 13,745 times. As they say, the crowd went wild.

The photo session afterward went pretty well, too. I’ve heard people complain that the photo session takes too long and keeps people from their parties and whatnot, but you know what? No one on stage was really complaining about being there. Heck, we were doing Rockettes-like leg kicks and singing an adapted version of “New York, New York” (“Start spreading the news, I got one today, I got me a shiny rocket, named the Hugo!” or some such). So yeah, the “post-ceremony photos are boring” thing is totally a “don’t throw me in the briar patch” moment.

(stolen again from Kathryn Cramer)

What I was really happy about was that I got to say something to Patrick Nielsen Hayden during the photo shoot. I’m up there on the stage, standing next to Robert Charles Wilson and David Hartwell, all of us getting our picture taken, and PNH is down on the floor, looking like a kid whose Christmas gifts just keep on coming. So I look at him directly, and as writer to editor, say, “So, can I get an extension?”

His response: “One week!”

My response: “I knew I should have won the Hugo! Then I would have gotten two weeks!”

Thank you, I’ll be here all evening. Tip your wait staff.

* I saw so many cool people that trying to name-check them all would take me the rest of my day, and would doom me in its incompleteness, and I really do have to start doing paid work at some point. But let me note some highlights:

— Meeting Brandon Sanderson and his sneaky friends who got me to sign a piece of LEGO (the explanation for that will come at a later point, when I get pictures). This year was Brandon’s first chance at the Campbell; I hope he gets another next year. His work certainly deserves it.

— Seeing Scott Westerfeld experience Instant Karma for his Pluto-hayta ways with his star-crossed travel plans (all right, this isn’t a real highlight; just funny his travel went askew the day Pluto was officially demoted). More generally, Scott was in town to get the coveted Golden Duck award, and I am delighted he did, because it gave me and Krissy an excuse to hang out with him where we wouldn’t have otherwise.

— Hanging with Doselle Young, because Doselle knows everyone and sooner or later everyone comes to see him (it’s amazing, really). Athena practically adopted Doselle, because why wouldn’t you. Also through Doselle, meeting his friends Kay and Erin, with whom I bonded through the power of 80s rock; watching Kay’s face as I recounted the terrors of 80s Canadian metal bands was worth the price of admission alone.

— Nick Sagan, time-warped in from 1896!

— Dinner with Cory Doctorow, Issac Spinzel (I hope I’m spelling your last name right, Issac), Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman, Cory’s gal Alice, and his friend Quinn Norton and her husband who my faulty memory tells me is Danny, but don’t count on that, but who was a riot anyway. Great company, great Thai food. Just as cool: Lunch with Elizabeth Bear, Sarah Monette, Elise Matheson, Nancy Kress and Ellen “Pool Shark” Klages, who I am very sorry I was not able to introduce to Athena.

— Signing books at the Borderland Books corner with Jake Lake and Mark Budz, and spending time with the whole Borderlands crew, who I think rocks in all sorts of inexpressible ways. Likewise, it was nice to meet the acquaintance of the folks from Mysterious Galaxy books from San Diego, whom I missed in that city (alas), and also to see the folks at Larry Smith’s table. Larry’s got a lot of signed books of mine, so when people came to my signing only to see the books were already signed, I said “Got this from Larry, did you?” And then I personalized the books, because that’s what you do.

— Spending a nice, destressing moment after a contentious panel with Deanna Hoak, SF’s most rockin’ copyeditor, and Josh Conviser, author of the hot new novel Echelon. Thanks, guys. I really needed that.

— Raph Koster, stalking me wherever I went.

— Meeting the very awesome David Marusek, and then accidentally sucking him into an interview for public radio. Sorry, David. You gave good quote!

— Getting a “Hugo Loser” ribbon from George RR Martin on Sunday, after the awards (he has a pack). “I don’t know that you should get one,” he said, noting the Campbell win. To which I said, “Well, I did lose the best novel Hugo, you know.” I got my ribbon. Look! Pretty!

— Being able to share some of Worldcon with my beloved high school friends Natasha Kordus and Deven Desai, the former who visited me on Friday and came with me to a number of parties, and the latter of whom attended the Awards ceremony with me and Krissy. Having them there and sharing some of the wierd and wonderful world of SF with them gave this convention an extra level of happiness for me.

— Having a genuine and purely unexpected moment of grace on Sunday by becoming part of a spontaneous acapella version “Down to the River to Pray” lead by Ellen Kushner, and featuring harmonies by Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Delia Sherman, Ellen Klages, Elise Matheson, Madeleine E. Robins, Elizabeth Bear, Sarah Monette, Benjamin Rosenbaum and yours truly. Ellen Kushner and a couple of the others had started singing it in the Hilton bar where Patrick, Teresa, Elise and I were having lunch, and Elise went “harmonies!” and headed over, followed the NHs and me, and we all eventually joined in. Ellen, who had her eyes closed the whole time she was singing, opened them when she was done and was a bit surprised to find her chorus had grown. And we were all on key.

Now, those of you not in science fiction (should you have read down this far at all) might think it strange that a bunch of science fiction writers, editors and fans might suddenly start singing southern gospel in a hotel bar, right next to the pool table. Well, that’s because it is strange. Strange is what we do, by profession and by inclination. But I will tell you this: After the wonderful, long, tiring, frazzling, exciting, and just profoundly overwhelming experience that was LACon IV, the simple act of singing a song of praise with people with whom I share bonds of friendship and community restored me, replenished me, and reminded me how lucky I am to be part of this community. Because I am, and I know it.

It was a good convention. I’m glad I was there.


About The Campbell Tiara

Since there seems to be interest in it,
a quick note about the new Campbell tiara, which you see me modeling here. As I can recollect the story, it was created at the behest of Campbell winners Jay Lake and Elizabeth Bear, who wanted to create Campbell regalia which would be provided to new winners to show off at the Worldcons or other conventions (away from the conventions, Jay Lake is tasked with the keeping of the regalia). The tiara — or, actually, diadem, if you want to be technical — was handcrafted by Amanda Downum from copper wire and glass beads, and now having worn it myself I’m here to tell you that it’s both quite lovely and also reasonably comfortable to wear. Not something you’d wear every day, mind you, but for a two-day stretch? No problem. And I simply enjoyed looking at it too. Ms. Downum, you did a fine, fine job. Thank you.

What’s really cool about the tiara, you should know, is that it really does work — people saw me wearing the tiara on Saturday and Sunday, and would say to me: “Hey! The Campbell tiara!” And then congratulate me on the award. As Elizabeth Bear (who as the Campbell winner just prior to me was wearing the tiara, which she then placed on my head) said, this has become an instant tradition; I look forward to placing it on the head of whomever wins the Campbell next year.

The picture above, incidentally, was taken by Keith Stokes, who graciously gave me permission to post it; in addition to being here, it is now on display as part of the extensive MidAmerican Fan Photo Archive of the 2006 Hugo Awards Ceremony, which you can see in all its glory here. Go visit! Now!


Quick and Possibly Incoherent Thoughts on Awards and Etc

This is what I look like dressed up (and taking a picture of myself and Athena in the hotel room mirror). Suffice to say I cleaned up well enough that a number of people who know me reasonably well had no idea who the hell I was, which I find infinitely amusing.

A couple of things. First, inasmuch as I’ve just gotten home and am somewhat narratively challenged due to travel and the lack of sleep travel brings, I’ll hold off on the full Worldcon report until I am rested and able to string together more than one thought at a time (update: here’s the rather more extensive report). Second, to everyone who has posted a congratulations or sent me an e-mail on the same theme: So many very genuine thanks. I do intend to respond more fully soon, but for now I hope you’ll accept this general expression of my gratitude. I’ve really appreciated every comment and e-mail. I just wish I was more coherent to better express it.

I’ll probably discuss this in more detail later (again with the incoherentness), but from my point of view, and with one (and a half) exceptions, the Hugo awards went pretty much the way I think they should have. I personally had pegged Accelerando for the Best Novel, because it’s such an awesome pile of SFnal goodness, and Charlie Stross is on fire these days. But I am really and honestly delighted that Spin took the top award. It’s a really excellent book, and people, Robert Charles Wilson was due. He’s written so many fine books and been on the ballot enough times, and this book was him at the top of his form. Before the ceremony, I told RCW that I would be honored to lose to him later in the evening, and you know what the funny thing is? When I did, I was.

Yes, yes, I know this sounds like the usual trying-to-be-graceful loser thing. But trust me. Connie Willis read off the title and I whooped like a kid. You know why? Because I like Bob and I like Spin. And because by that time I had already won the Campbell. So, you know, I was good for the evening.

Also, now that the contest is over, I can tell you all: I had no illusions I was going to win the Hugo. When the nominations were announced, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, my invaluable editor, started acting in his role as Moderator of Expectations, preparing me, deftly but firmly, for the fact that I wasn’t going to win the Hugo. I appreciated the thought, but I was already way ahead of him on this one. There were indeed scenarios I could imagine that had me walking off with the Hugo last Saturday night, but the operative word for their probability was: low. I had an acceptance speech ready on the off chance I managed to pull through and win, but its content should tell you what I thought of the idea of winning the Hugo in this particular field of competitors: It read, in its entirety, “You’re all high.” The fact I had no expectation of winning the Hugo allowed me to actually enjoy my nomination, and let me tell you, I did. Oh, boy, did I ever. It’s fun being a Hugo nominee.

And anyway: Hey! I got me a Campbell! Anyone who was there at the awards ceremony can tell you how excited I was to get the plaque — and the newly-inaugurated Campbell tiara (actually a diadem, but never mind that now). Why? For one thing, because Chris Roberson and Sarah Monette are friends of mine, and it was excellent to have us all as nominees for the same award, along with Brandon Sanderson (who I met at the awards and who really is an excellent human and writer), K.J. Bishop and Steph Swainston. I get to call these folks my peers, and what a peer group. For another thing, because so many of the people I consider friends and inspirations have held the station I now currently occupy, and I’m delighted (and humbled) to be in their company. Finally, because I needed a new cheeseboard (that’s an inside joke). But beyond that, with luck and skill and the benevolence of science fiction fans, I may find myself with another Hugo nomination. But there’s only a limited time to win a Campbell, and you can only win it once. I’m staggered to have it rest with me awhile.

Robert Charles Wilson has the Hugo — Spin deserves it, and he deserves it, several times over, in my opinion. I’m inexpressibly happy he has it in his possession. I’ll simply note that as he and I were standing there having our pictures taken by fans and by the press, he said to me, about the Campbell, “Can I see it? Because I’m never going to win it.” I was happy to show it to him, and to be able to spend some time with him up there on that stage, each of us with the right award for the evening.


Look What I Got

Hi, I’m John Scalzi, and I’m the winner of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

Exciting night. Now it’s late and I’m very tired, and I’m going to sleep. But I thought you’d all like to know.

See you all on Monday.


Dwarf Planets

Yes, I heard. Yes, I told Athena, whose response, after asking for and receiving permission to use a very mild curse word, was: “Pluto’s been demoted? That’s crap!”

How do I feel about it? Seriously? Snarky rivalries with other science fiction writers who will undoubtedly be unbearably gloaty when I see them later tonight notwithstanding, I think it’s fine. The IAU has created a new class of planet to recognize Pluto and its ilk (“dwarf planets”). Inasmuch as I’ve advocated classifying Pluto and its ilk as such, I can hardly complain when the IAU agrees with me on that matter. Now, what will be interesting is what the IAU will do when someone discovers one of these “dwarf planets” which actually does meet its official criteria for planetary status. Personally I don’t doubt there are objects out there orbiting the sun massive enough to “sweep the lane” but which are fundamentally slushy balls of ice. Will someone try to add new restrictions to the definition to keep it out of the club? We’ll have to see if the Pluto-hayta types rise again, with their ice-ist agenda.

Does this mean Pluto will now fade from cultural memory? We’ll find out, but I’ll say this much about it — I’ll be revising The Rough Guide to the Universe over the next year; in the previous edition of the book, I lumped in Pluto with Uranus and Neptune. In the revised book, I expect I’ll be adding a new chapter: “Pluto and the dwarf planets.” That’s a bit of a promotion, I’d say. Personally, I think Pluto will be around for a while.

Now, back to the convention. See you all next Monday.


Whatevr 2.0

I’m pleased to announce that and the Whatever have been acquired by Tribune Media Services in a $1.7 million cash and stock deal. The Whatever will be retooled into a community site, complete with personalized reader diaries with integrated multimedia and filesharing capabilities. This will require the site going dark for the next ten days while we swap out the database and expand bandwidth; the new Whatevr 2.0 (beta) will go live Monday, August 28. I hope you’ll join me and Tribune Media Services for this exciting new stage in the evolution of The Whatever.


No one’s buying the site for $1.7 million, alas; I’m merely stepping away from the Whatever until the 28th to spend time with family and then to spend time with about 5,000 science fiction geeks at LACon IV, where I will be on a ridiculous number of panels and will have to attend some sort of ceremony regarding some awards I doubt anyone’s ever heard of.

You decide which of these two stories is more believable.

In the meantime, for those of you who are coming to LACon IV, please note that my reading will be on Thursday, August 24 at 4pm. I will be reading either one of two things: Either the infamous first chapter of the upcoming The Android’s Dream, or the first chapter of The Last Colony, the third and for now final installment in the Old Man series. Either way, you don’t want to miss it, and I don’t want to blather on to an empty room. Please come, won’t you?

I don’t plan on spending any amount of time here between now and the 28th, although I’ll probably check in to delete spam comments, because spam sucks. I may post an open thread entry or two during that time, but don’t count on it. If you postively can’t live without me, I’ll be posting a couple of entries a day over at By The Way, because they pay me to. But basically, you’re on your own until the 28th (and possibly the 29th, if I’m feeling lazy). Find something to do, people. I hear Yahtzee’s a lot of fun.

Seriously, enjoy yourself for the next ten days. I will. And for those of you coming to LACon IV: See you there. Hopefully at the reading.


Representin’ for the SF Publishing Hotties, Yo

Apparently Galleycat is running a contest to determine “the Hottie of Publishing, Women’s Division,” and has five finalists up, some of whom really do seem to be rather unspeakably hot, from what I can discern from the rather ridiculously small pictures of the women on the site. One of the finalists, Liz Scheier (pictured here), is a science fiction editor, and I’m being lobbied by members of the science fiction hawt women appreciation underground to throw some votes her way.

Well, okay: As long as we all preface this with the acknowledgement that this is a very silly poll or contest or whatever, and that the vote does not oblige Liz to, you know, actually date any of us, why not recognize hotness in science fiction, in the form of an editor who might buy one of your books and/or buy some books that you will later read and enjoy? Powerful, hawt women in SF rock. What could possibly be better?

Yes, yes, powerful hawt women in SF offering you free pizza. Now beat yourself in the head with a bat, you mouth-breathing troglodyte, you.

So, anyway: vote for Liz. Science fiction thanks you in advance for your participation.


Incidentally —

Yes, I got that chapter done yesterday. I have another to do today. Joy.

Here’s a fun fact: Raymond Chandler once wrote about writing “If you ever run out of ideas, have someone come through the door with a gun.”

In science fiction, a missile attack does pretty much the same thing.

That is all.


In Today’s Episode of “Those Activist Courts”!

The NSA eavesdropping program is unconstitutional? That’s unpossible!

A federal judge on Thursday ruled that the U.S. government’s warrantless wiretapping program is unconstitutional and ordered it ended immediately.

In a 44-page memorandum and order, U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, — who is based in Detroit, Michigan –struck down the National Security Agency’s program, which she said violates the rights to free speech and privacy.

Here’s the full ruling. My favorite quote:

The president of the United States … has undisputedly violated the Fourth in failing to procure judicial orders.

Oh, wait, this one is good, too:

Plaintiffs have prevailed, and the public interest is clear, in this matter. It is the upholding of our Constitution.

Yes, upholding the Constitution, which is a thing I believe this president may have heard of in his oath of office. Nice that he’ll be held to that. But no doubt, Bush being Bush, he’ll try to find yet another way to get around it. I do so yearn for a president who does not see the US Constitution as damage, to be routed around whenever possible. I’d like to think I’m not alone in this.


Reeking With Plutessence

Because I know you care, the latest on Pluto: First, Scott Westerfeld’s latest Pluto-hatin’ rant, in which it’s revealed, more or less, that one of his biggest problems with a solar system with tiny ice planets is that then everything gets so darn messy. Which reminds me that the pre-Copernicans had a lovely and ordered view of the solar system — a sphere for everything, and everything in its sphere — whose only problem was that it just happened to be, you know, wrong. Fact is, it’s a messy universe; not even the universal constants may be as constant as we once assumed. If we end up with dozens — nay, hundreds! — of tiny ice planets orbiting the sun slowly in wacky, eccentric orbits, it’s just the way these things go.

Scott’s also against the “nine historical planets” idea, hoping against all sense and reason that astronomers and other scientists will fall back on saying “eight classic planets,” thus giving Pluto the (ironically) cold shoulder, and eventually we’ll all forget about those crazy little ice planets with their crazy eccentric orbits and all. Well, the reason this won’t happen is because Pluto is useful; it’s not only a planet, but it’s also a signifier for all the other dinky ice planets out there. By retaining and invoking Pluto as the example par excellence of tiny ice planets, we get away with not having to name them all, thus allowing future generations of children to know tiny ice planets exist — as they certainly do, so ignoring them entirely would be a lie — without torturing them by requiring them to memorize the name of every bit of ice and rock massive enough to collapse into a sphere. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how Pluto saved Christmas.

Meanwhile, Charlie Stross thinks both Scott and I are mad as dogs, and plumps for the “four planet” solar system. I’d sic Cthulhu on him, but clearly, it’s far too late for that.

One more twist in Scott’s Pluto-hatin’ gut: Textbook and toy makers are preparing to implement the 12-planet solar system. Apparently it’ll take up to seven years before all the science textbooks in the US have all the 12 proposed planets in them, thanks to the nature of textbook sales in this country. But the toys could be ready much sooner than that: “Discovery Channel Store spokeswoman Pamela Rucker predicted new 12-planet toys could be in stores in time for the Christmas season.”

Heh. I know what I’m getting Scott for the holidays.


If Only I Had Known

According to this thing, the Whatever is worth $501,876.06, based on price AOL paid for the various Weblogs, Inc. properties back in the day. Yes, and if I had vested and sold all my AOL stock in 2000, I would be a millionaire now. Money is fun when it’s imaginary and pointless.

Now I’m off. If I don’t finish this chapter today, I’m going to slit my own goddamn throat. See you tomorrow.

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