Reader Request Week 2007 #6: Short Bits

Since I woke up at 4am and couldn’t go back to sleep, and I’m not quite ready to dive into the novel for today, let’s bang through some short answers to many of the questions/requests for blatheration that came up in the Reader Request queue. There are quite a lot — indeed, I might even do two of these.

Lanna Lee Maheux-Quinn: “What is the most surprising thing about you, John Scalzi?”

I think probably the most surprising thing about me is that there are surprising things about me — which is to say there are a number of things about my life and how I live it that I don’t write about here. Now, let’s not get too wrapped up in this: I’m really not that exciting. I do not wish suggest that I have an evil, sinister second life, in which I am the meth king of the Midwest, or a vampire, or that I lick people’s utensils when I visit their houses, or that I dress as a furry and spend hours in cuddlepiles (which is not evil or sinister but might be full of static electricity); I neither am nor do those things. It is to suggest that I have a well-defined line, beyond which I don’t share, and relative to what and how much other people share on their blogs or journals, the line is actually fairly far back. Which is to say I have a private life, which is occasionally surprising to the people who only know me through my online life.

Ordinarygirl: “What is it about the music you like that makes you like it? Are you mostly a lyrical-type of guy or is there certain musical combinations that just do it for you? Do you see a future for yourself in music?”

With regard to what makes music work for me, I don’t think it’s any one thing, but the totality of the experience; that said, if I had to compartmentalize it, I’d say it’d be 70/30 music to lyrics. I’m willing to forgive a lot lyrically if musically a song works for me; I’m not nearly as likely to enjoy a song whose lyrics are clever but whose music is no damn good. This would explain my easy enjoyment of idiotic melodic rock while disdaining some music which, while having more street cred, is just not as much fun to listen to. Having noted that I do find that as I get older my capacity to chuck lyrical intelligence when it comes to relatively new bands has declined considerably; I have no love for Nickelback, for example.

I don’t see a future for myself in music, if the question is meant as me writing music personally; that’s something I do for fun, when I have time. I do absolutely see a future for myself in music, if you mean still finding music I like from new artists. It’s always a joy to find a new band or musician whose work hits home.

Tor: “Gears of War – buy the game or wait for the movie?”

Dude, there hasn’t been a video game-based movie yet that didn’t suck, and the genre goes back a dozen years now. Get the game.

Shawn Powers: “How as your dead tree and fast electron fame affected your daily life, if any? I creeped myself out a bit adding you to my AIM buddy list, but thousands of others likely did the same thing.”

Well, you know. The reason I put the public AIM address out there was so anyone could add me to their Buddy List. If it doesn’t creep me out, I don’t know why it should creep you out.

My fame has not notably affected my daily life. First, I live in a small town; people here know what I do but it’s not any big deal to them. Second, my “fame” isn’t real fame, of the “get recognized by total strangers” sort. Outside of a science fiction convention, no one randomly stops and goes “Hey, isn’t that John Scalzi?” when I go by (and inside a science convention they will still usually try to casually read my convention badge, since I really don’t look too much like my pictures). The most I get of that is when someone online gets excited if I link to them or put a comment on their LJ, and that’s rare enough as it is. Fact is, I don’t really have fame; at this point what I have is notability.

Moreover it seems unlikely I will gather much more fame. I’m 37 years old and past the stage where I will look any more attractive rather than less attractive as I go on, for one thing, but for another thing, I’m a writer, which means that what fame I do have accrues to my name and my books, not to my physical being. I think this is fine. I don’t actually want to be randomly accosted by people when I go shopping or when I’m hanging out with friends outside of a context where I’m implicitly on display, like a science fiction convention. I like the way my “fame” works now, which is that I go to a specific place ( a convention, a book store, etc), have a couple days where people appear to like to be around me, and then I go home and no one bugs me. I can’t even imagine how a real famous person gets through their day. I would go insane.

Walter: “Should we be more careful about announcing our presence in the universe?”

A little late for that, Walter. We’ve been blasting our presence to the universe for 80 years now, and it seems unlikely we’ll be getting any less noisy. Anyone who has the technology to hear us (and is within 80 light years) has heard us by now.

Patrick M.: “What’s more distracting when talking to someone, huge wing-like ears or a lazy eye?”

Lazy eye. I don’t really notice ears. The secret with lazy eyes is to look in the eye that’s looking at you. Simple. If neither eye is looking at you, split the difference and look at the bridge of the nose.

Kevin Q: “How do you feel about sushi? On a more general note, are you an adventurous eater (Schadenfreude pie experimentation notwithstanding)?”

I like sushi rather a lot, actually, and was happy when a Japanese restaurant opened up a couple towns over. I don’t actually consider sushi qualifying as “adventurous eating” at this point, because it’s been popular here in the US for a couple decades now (I first ate it in high school). Adventurous eating to me at this point would be eating bugs. I’m not quite there yet.

Nathan: “So, would you mind, one day next week, posting ‘A Day in the Life of Scalzi’ with pictures and video?”

First, yes, I would mind, because I would find it intrusive; second, you don’t want me to do it because it’s really boring: I spend almost all my time in front of a computer, typing. That’s what writers do. The act of writing really isn’t very exciting, and I do more writing than most writers during a day, which means my day-to-day life is even less interesting than most writers’. Sorry. I know my life seems more exciting on the other side than it does on this side.

The Anonymous Collective: “Any sexual fetish which creeps you out. Especially if it’s internet-related.”

I don’t know that I find any consensually acted-upon fetish creepy. I find a few sort of disgusting, and others amusing, and in some cases a fetish is simply so far removed from my own sexual proclivities (which are, without going into any detail, generally pretty vanilla) that I don’t really think anything about it at all, other than “well, you kids have fun.”

What I would find creepy is if someone was being very secretive about a fetish and not telling their partner(s). Look, if you’re a panty huffer (or whatever), let the person you’re with know, before they find you trying to inhale their clothes hamper. Really, it just saves time and a lot of awkwardness.

Dr. Phil: “If asked, would you teach a week at Clarion? Does the recent move from East Lansing MI to San Diego CA affect your decision?”

Clarion, for those of you who don’t know, is a famed science fiction writing workshop that lasts six weeks.

Sure, I’d teach, if I could take a week off in my schedule (and I suspect I could probably make the time); no, the recent move wouldn’t have any effect on the decision. Actually I would have preferred if Clarion had stayed in Michigan, because it’s closer to where I live, so I could just drive there in about four hours. The question is whether Clarion would want me to teach. I’ve noted before that I doubt whether a workshop environment would have been at all helpful for me as a budding writer, since I don’t have the temperament for group criticism (ego too big, disinterested in the opinion of people not actually buying work, etc); while I think I could be a useful teacher I don’t know if the people who choose the instructors would want someone who wouldn’t have want to go to Clarion to be someone who teaches there.

In any event I haven’t been invited. We’ll see if I am.

39 Comments on “Reader Request Week 2007 #6: Short Bits”

  1. Hasn’t been a video game movie that didn’t suck?

    I’m not sure I’d agree with that. Mortal Kombat was a terrible movie, but a great adaption of a pretty mindless game. Resident Evil was a fairly decent horror flick with more than a few decent nods to it’s source.

    Silent Hill, I thought, was probably both the most faithful and the most likely to stand on it’s own as a decent movie. I mean, I thought Christopher Gans knocked that one out of the park. I mean, they can’t ALL be made by Uwe Boll as a tax shelter, now can they?

  2. “since I really don’t look too much like my pictures”

    That’s strange, I could pick you out across the room at Confusion. Spotted you first as I was chekcing in, and then as Iwondered the halls. Must have been the halo.

  3. TOp 10 Most Surprising Things about John Scalzi:

    10) Answers the phone in a high pitched voice. When queried, claims Athena answers the phone.

    9) Sleeps with a stuffed squirrel named Tina.

    8) Has 9 fingers. On each hand. Any photo with his hands is carefully doctored. The picture of Athena with extra fingers? Real, they just winnowed the count down wth gene therapy.

    7) Krissy is actually his nurse.

    6) Loves nothing better than a a bath in champagne and Comet.

    5) Writes dialogue with his left leg in the air, action with his right.

    4) Will sometimes speak at you in a combination of French, Dutch and English, starting the sentence with one continuing with another and ending with still another. All while staring at you over his shoulder and hissing the words.

    3) Has a lifesize portrait of Mary Baker Eddy, founder of the Christian Science Church on his back. When he’s had too much Coke Zero, he’s known to take the shirt off and make her “speak”, giving lectures on the Church that historians say are frighteningly accurate in their protrayal and accuracy.

    2) Will never step foot in Texas as long as Ana Nicole Smith isn’t buried there.

    1) Catch him offguard, and call out “Larry!” very loudly. He will become startled for a moment and most likely become highly emotional. Just before he regains his composure, he’ll shut his eyes tight, clasp his hands to his temples and shout “LARRY’S DEAD!!!” After this he will claim no memeory of the incident.

  4. Steve Buchheit- by “halo” you meant “shiny bald top” right :)

    (I joke, but being 24 with an already retreating hair line, I will soon join the ranks…)

  5. Jeremiah, well, the backlighting that accompanies John at conventions (which I think I’ve mentioned before, along with the choir) does add to the effect bouncing off the reflective properties of his skull, but John really does sport a full-on Giotto-style halo. At first it can be unsettling, especially when it “sparks” and makes popping noises, but after you see John dance, well, it’s not that big of a deal after that spectacle. John can dim the halo, but that’s only when he’s using his California Ninja Powers (kinda hard sneaking around in the dark with an overhead light, if you see what I mean).

  6. I’m actually a huge fan of Paul W.S. Anderson’s adaptations (the first Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil flicks), although they certainly don’t aspire to be anything more than B movies. But they’re perfectly fun pieces of cheese, and both way better than they had a right to be.

  7. I have to agree with Adam about the Resident Evil flicks. Sure, they have no redeeming value. They’re just fun. Whereas Mr. Boll’s flicks are just eye-stabbingly horrible.

  8. As far as I’m concerned there’s only one Paul WS Anderson movie for which he should not be put on trial for hactacularity, and that’s Event Horizon. And that film wasn’t exactly good. Otherwise, he’s like drunk supermodel: All style, very little forward movement.

  9. Dude, there hasn’t been a video game-based movie yet that didn’t suck,

    I’d second Resident Evil as an exception to this rule. If you can forget there was a sequel.

  10. As far as I’m concerned there’s only one Paul WS Anderson movie for which he should not be put on trial for hactacularity, and that’s Event Horizon. And that film wasn’t exactly good.

    After that movie, a bunch of us walked out of and looked at each other aghast at the spectacle of awfulness that was the movie. Before I could say anything, one of our friends piped up, “Wow! That was great! I mean really really great!”

    The car ride to dinner was very quiet.

  11. As far as I’m concerned there’s only one Paul WS Anderson movie for which he should not be put on trial for hactacularity, and that’s Event Horizon. And that film wasn’t exactly good.

    You mean that director made OTHER movies? And they’re worse than Event Horizon?

    I’ll grant you, Sam Neill can’t possibly be bad, and Sean Pertwee was kinda fun if you’re a Dr Who fan, but that movie ranked as the worst I’d seen if years, if not decades.

    And they let Anderson make more movies?

  12. On the topic of aging, you may be wrong. There’s a saying that as men age they begin to look more and more like Sean Connery. Unfortunately for women, as they age they also begin to look more and more like Sean Connery.

  13. Event Horizon, just another example of Sam Neil’s crappy career decision making. Terrific actor, but for crying out loud he’s been in some shitty movies.

    “What’s more distracting when talking to someone, huge wing-like ears or a lazy eye?” Hmmmm, does this happen to you a lot, Patrick? Maybe you should move further away from the old Three Mile Island site…just saying.

  14. I’m most impressed that you watched more than one of his films. It’s like sipping from a carton of milk every few minutes, each time hoping that it’s no longer sour.

  15. Ugghh! I did a refresh and the background changed. Ugghh! I don’t like change. Why can’t everything just stay the same? Why? Why?

    Sorry, haven’t had enough (ass flavored) coffee yet this morning.

  16. Is that what they are? No, nothing against cherry blossoms, it’s just change. I’m calming down now that I’ve got a 2nd cup of coffee in me… I’ll be okay.

  17. Is that what they are? No, nothing against cherry blossoms, it’s just change. I’m calming down now that I’ve got a 2nd cup of coffee in me… I’ll be okay.

  18. Okay, don’t do a “view background image” in FF at the same time you click “post”. Sorry about the double post.

  19. Hi, John! Thanks for taking my Clarion question. I posed it because (a) I attended the 2004 Clarion workshop — and never have I worked as hard in my life as those six weeks and we didn’t even have an actual requirement to write anything! — and (b) I hadn’t recalled seeing too much discussion of workshops and crit groups in your advice to young/new writers here on the Whatever.

    Frankly, your pieces on writing and the economics of writing plus your in-person con presence suggest you’d be great at Clarion. With Charles N. Brown in the April LOCUS virtually seconding your write-up campaign for SFWA President, a gig with Clarion might complete the John Scalzi World Domination Tour. That and some of the more recent Clarion classes have been heavy on the fantasy and speculative fiction end and could use a good butt-kicking by someone who can write hard military SF. Another plus — most Clarion students buy at least one book per instructor beforehand and more at the public readings, so it’d give you at least twenty more sales of Old Man’s War. (grin)

    Of course, last week I was taking a break in my office reading in the Coffee Shop book, signed and numbered #298 thank-you-very-much, when I hit page 223-4 and your 2003 opinion of workshops… so I figured you might not bother to pick my question. (grin)

    Dr. Phil

  20. Dr. Phil:

    “With Charles N. Brown in the April LOCUS virtually seconding your write-up campaign for SFWA President, a gig with Clarion might complete the John Scalzi World Domination Tour.”

    I didn’t know anything about Charlie saying anything about me in this month’s Locus; what did he say?

  21. Resident Evil movies are proof that many people will watch absolutely anything with Milla Jovovich in it. I’m not saying that’s wrong, but it does explain the inexplicable.

    And if I recall, Event Horizon had some decent talent in addition to Sam Neill. And as easy as it is to criticize actors for their choices, I expect that at some level it beats not working.

  22. The only way I can make sense out of Event Horizon is if I assume they put together a preliminary version, watched it, and then had a conversation kind of like:

    “Well, that sucked.”


    “Now what?”

    “I dunno. Add a few thousand gallons of fake blood and slink away quietly?”

  23. The other thing to realize about writers and actors and the like is that they don’t know what the end product will be like, regardless of how good or bad the script is. The shooting script might bear a passing resemblance to what the scriptwriter wrote, but there’s no guarantee. Even after shooting there’s editing and re-shooting and focus groups and re-editing. For an interesting lesson in what can go wrong, take a look at John Rogers’ description of arbitration letters. John Rogers wrote the script that eventually became Catwoman, and in the above link he explains why he can still get work writing in Hollywood.

  24. John,

    I never said I thought your life or the documentation thereof would be exciting to watch. I was only informing you that I’m much too lazy to stalk you and was trying to enlist your help.

    No worries. I’ll just get periodic reports from Steve Buchheit.

  25. You been reading too much Daily Kos lately, mofo? I love the plants, but hate the super narrow column.

  26. Bah, I was going to point out Silent Hill as the exception!
    The existence of Dr Boll and his stranglehold on the games-to-movies genre does make the rule pretty much true so far, but then comics-to-movie has been hit and miss, as has tv-show-to-movie. Amusement-park-ride-to-movie has so far had a better record than games-to-movies but then, there haven’t been that many.

  27. Screenwriters are for the most part treated like dogs. Movie people pet you and give you treats when you perform a good trick, but God help you if you displease your masters. A very frustrating business though there is money to be made, if you can stand the humiliation.

    John, I’m glad to see you say the act of writing is not exciting. I don’t like the process very much, and I’m glad to know it’s not just me. When I was a younger and unpaid, I had many romantic notions about the job. Trying to write something that made money has been difficult enough to rid me of most of those notions.

    I’m also in agreement about workshops. I’ve been at a couple of the things as a presenter/writer. One was OK, run by a friend novelist. It was friendly and cheap. At the worst, there was a good time had by all.

    The other, where I was teaching screenwriting was a nightmare. It was very expensive and there were stars there. There was one author, (read author with a capital A.) He was a real star. An Oprah Author, he had wonderful gray writer hair and wore a black silk shirt.

    Throughout the whole workshop he treated me as if I were less than a gnat, once interrupting my presentation to correct me–though because he was so busy trying to rub up against a woman half his age, he had misheard what I had said and ended up making an ass of himself. After three days of snotty comments aimed at screenwriters, (amateur hacks was one comment) he overheard me mention the name of a director I was working with at the time. Turned out the Author was a big fan of that particular director, and as I was putting my bag in the car to leave, promising myself I would never, ever go near a fracking workshop no matter what they paid, the great Author ran up to my car and handed me his book.

    Now you need to understand, I’m a fan and a sucker and when he’d been mean to me, it really hurt my feelings, so as soon as he handed me the book, I thought–maybe he’s not such a bad guy after all. I opened the book and it was inscribed to the director I was working with. “Get that to (blank) he said, I think it would really be good for him.” He turned around and walked away without even saying thank you.

    Somewhere on the side of the road, around Jellico Mountain, on I-75, there are the tattered remains of a autographed copy of the great Author’s book and I will never again go within miles of a writer’s workshop.

    I didn’t see much learning going on and though I’m sure there are workshops that do a good job–this was not one of them. What I saw was a deal cut between writers and a university where they overcharge hopeful writers for the opportunity to breathe the same rare air as a famous writer. Frankly, thought the school should have been sued for fraud.

    The writers attending the screenwriting session had no interest in dramatic theory or how a film script is written. They wanted my agent’s phone number. They wanted me to pitch their self-published books and they were mad when I didn’t have the insider answers that would magically get them a meeting with Oliver Stone. The talk I’d prepared on three act structure and the talk about how to build a character went out the window and I ended up cutting everything short and answered pointless questions that helped no one.

    Never again. I believe many of the these workshops are just a trick foisted on unsuspecting beginners who scrape up the money hoping to learn something real or make a connection, when their money would be better spend on food and their writing would benefit more by spending those three days at home writing.

    Sorry about the tirade, folks, and if you teach at or attend workshops–take my foaming at the mouth with a grain of salt. I’m sure there’s good work going on in some of these deals, but I’m suspicious about how much can be learned in a short workshop especially. Then again, I’m not sure writing can be taught in the first place. On the other hand, I just saved myself a trip to a therapist and for that, I thank you all for your patience.

  28. Nathan, “No worries. I’ll just get periodic reports from Steve Buchheit.”

    Unfortunately, Nathan, the Great Scalzi Flood of 2007 dislodged all the furries from around the compound, and while comparing notes at the local Denny’s they voted in mass to 1) abandon the Scalzi Stalking until weather patterns were more favorable and 2) rent a room at the nearby Amer-Inn to form one last soggy cuddle pile before returning to their home lives and neglected jobs. It was twenty paws to three, so there was really no hope of enticing them with promises of water-proof tree houses and well drained holes. Fortunately, I was able to escape before the aforementioned room could be procured.

    So, alas, until this global warming thing blows over, any furry stalking of the compound will be sporadic and on a volunteer basis.

  29. TCO:

    I haven’t fiddled with the column size at all — it looks fine on my computer.

  30. The secret with lazy eyes is to look in the eye that’s looking at you.
    [decloak]Yep. It’s also really hard to do. I have a few friends with lazy eyes and it’s always the one that doesn’t look at you that grabs your attention, and by the time you realize you’ve been looking at the wrong one, it’s too late.[/decloak]

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