Why, Yes, I Am Fiddling With the Background Again

Because I’m just that way, that’s why. Feel free to comment if you like.

Snack Time is Truly Disturbing at the Wintersons

I wrote it. My friend Richard Polt drew it. It’s from way way way back in the timestream.

Newspaper Headline: “Scalzi Back in Custody After Drink Binge”

No, it’s not me; I don’t even drink alcohol. It’s some Australian fellow who is more than a bit bonkers: Apparently he stabbed his neighbors because they were “evil clones.” Despite this, he was allowed to be detained at home rather than in mental institution or a jail; to celebrate this, he went out for a drink. Thus ends home detention. And rightfully so, I’d have to say.

Bush’s Speech on Iraq

I didn’t watch it, for the same reason I don’t watch any of Bush’s speeches anymore, which is that the man is simply painful to watch when he tries to form vowels and consonants with his lips and tongue. My understanding from reading the analysis is that Bush managed to be even less persuasive than usual, a sentiment that seemed to be uniform save for those folks who could watch the man fillet a live kitten and intone gravely about how it exemplified his great leadership. It’s just as well I skipped the live show. I just paid a lot of money to repair my television; I would hate to have all that money go to waste when I threw a shoe through the TV screen.

I read it, as reading is my preferred way to deal with the President these days. There were a few moments of what I’m sure is wholly unintentional irony; the man of the “Mission Accomplished” banner on an aircraft carrier really ought not have a line in a speech that says “There will be no surrender ceremony on the deck of a battleship.” But overall it reads as perfectly reasonable.

Which in my mind is the problem. Every time you look at the words this administration uses in describing Iraq and their plans for the country, they look perfectly sensible, especially when you hold them in isolation. When you place them in context — factoring in the situation on the ground in Iraq, this administration’s track record executing this war, the administration’s overall track record with competence and Bush’s own truculent and petulant nature — you realize that words don’t mean much. Even if Bush and his strategists are absolutely correct in their planning — that adding 20,000 troops could stabilize Iraq and get troops on their path to home — my expectation that such a strategy could be competently executed is so low that my baseline assumption is that even if it could work, this administration will find some way to screw it up. I hate that this is my baseline assumption for my government.

As I’ve said numerous times before, this isn’t a red or blue issue, at least for me; it’s a competence issue. The Bush administration has precious little of it, and has never put a premium on it. Words are cheap; competence is dear, and I wish the Bush administration would invest a bit more in the latter (Bush is fortunate that our people in uniform are, by and large, as competent as he appears not to be).

I’ll be very interested to see how this shakes out in the next few months; the war is now deeply unpopular, as is Bush, and now Bush doesn’t have a compliant Congress to do his bidding. I have no illusions that Bush and his folks will go after those who question his plans and his competence, as they’ve always done, but this isn’t 2004 anymore and I wonder how far that will go this time around.

I think the one thing everyone agrees with is that in many ways this is Bush’s last stand on Iraq; what I wonder is whether this will turn out the way anyone expects. If experience is our guide, the answer will be: Of course it won’t.

OMW in Chinese


From a correspondent in China:

Just noticed last night that the Chinese translation of Old Man’s War is out… Turns out that it’s the main selection in the January installment of the Science Fiction World Translations edition. You share the issue with Invisible Universe by Gregory Christiano and short stories by Chouhei Kanbayashi and Masaki Yamada.

This means that the title is in a non-obvious position on the cover. 垂暮之战 is in large characters roughly over the robot’s left shoulder (the title is more poetic than the original: 垂暮 literally means “dusk” but is a common metaphor for old age), and to its right, in smaller characters, it says “Hugo Nominee” and “American Military Science Fiction for the New Century”. Your name, 约翰·斯卡尔齐, follows the robot’s arm downward.

Interesting. I was personally under the impression OMW would be published as a stand-alone book (and it may yet be; I need to double-check my contract), but this doesn’t displease me, either. Science Fiction World, which is publishing OMW, is immensely popular in China; their primary magazine has a circulation I’ve seen listed as anywhere from 300,000 to 500,000; contrast that with the big three SF magazine markets here in the US, whose combined paid circulation (going by 2005 numbers) doesn’t quite hit 60,000. Even proportionally speaking, that’s a bigger market, made even larger by the fact that apparently 3 or 4 people read each copy of SFW. I’m not sure what the circulation of SFW’s “Translations” magazine is, but I’m willing to bet it’s going to get OMW read by quite a few folks, and that’s all to the good.

As a side note, I’m reading the comments about the book in the Science Fiction World online forums, via the Babelfish translator. It’s very amusing; I suspect Babelfish translates just enough for me to completely misunderstand what everyone is saying.