Reader Request Week 2007 #7: Short Bits II: Electric Boogaloo

Since doing this yesterday so was so much fun — and so easy! — let’s keep the good times going, and finish off Reader Request Week for 2007 (especially since it’s now dragged on for nine days), with another entry of short bits.

Alex J. Avriette: “I’d be interested in hearing you discuss the relevance of science fiction to literature as a whole. It’s been discussed off-and-on in various places, particularly in authors’ weblogs, but they all seem to have a ‘wait and see’ attitude. Stuff is just around the corner, and then we can speculate. Can SF gain the credibility required to, say, have it be covered in high school classrooms? Will we ever see books like Accelerando or Snow Crash (or their successors…) offered alongside works such as To Kill a Mockingbird?”

Well, Alex, I think SF is already taught in high schools and even middle school; I know Fahrenheit 451 and Martian Chronicles are both popular, and assigning 1984, Brave New World, and Stranger in a Strange Land or Starship Troopers is not unheard of either. My particular high school was unusual, I’ll be the first to admit, but it had an entire class on utopic literature, which assigned everything from (yes) Utopia to then contemporary science fiction.

Now, the question of whether newer SF books will ever be taught? Difficult to say. Books are taught in high school for a reason, because of the themes involved and etc; Fahrenheit and 1984, for example, are good because they talk about individuality in repressive societies. For newer books to start showing up in reading lists, they have to hit some pretty basic themes, and the thing about a lot of adult science fiction these days is that it doesn’t do that — at least, not as well as Bradbury or Heinlein did. I suspect teachers will stick with what they know.

Or, and I think this is a very real possibility, they’ll assign YA SF. One author I expect will be taught in high schools — because it’s already started — is Scott Westerfeld, whose Uglies series of books is dead-on about issues of identity and personal determination in a repressive society, done up in a way that works for contemporary teens.

Joel: “What impractical foreign language would you like to be fluent in?”

Italian. Which will outrage some folks because Italian is, after all, spoken by 55 million people and it’s fairly practical for them. But here in the US, outside some very specific urban enclaves, it’s not particularly useful. I’d want to speak it because my grandfather only spoke Italian until he was five and started school, and I like the idea of sharing that language with him, because I loved him a lot.

Jesse C: “I wrote a post on my blog about authors building web communities as a new sort of business model and you were my test case. So I figured I’d pass the link along to you. Its something it’d be interesting to hear your take on during your reader request week.”

I think creating the opportunity for online communities to exist can be very helpful for an author — whether one coalesces, of course, is another matter entirely and depends on both the writers and the fans. And I do think an author who is cynical about it, or plots to create community only as a means to an end, is likely to create disappointment on all sides. The community around here is a little different, because the Whatever predates any of my books by a couple of years, and my published science fiction by seven — which is to say the community was here before I was an author of any consequence. This is why I am equally known for blogging as I am for writing SF. As it happens I’ll be talking about this very subject in a few days in San Diego; when I get back I may expound on it a bit more here.

SFC SKI: “I have two topics. The first is: Citizenship, in the sense of ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.’ The second topic: Is the term ‘Punk’ as it’s used today just a cooler way to describe Power Pop?”

Second one first: I think ‘Power Pop’ is used to describe power pop, although I also think it’s acknowledged that punk is a part of its DNA. I do think there’s always been a poppy aspect to punk; if you go back and listen to Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols — as I recommend you do — or any early Ramones or the Damned — the thing that gets you about it now is that it is actually damn catchy. It’s a direct line from Sex Pistols to Fall Out Boy, as much as that horrifies punk purists (it’s not necessarily a straight line from TSOL or Husker Du to Fall Out Boy, but that’s another discussion).

I do think that using the word “punk” to describe power pop is just lazy or misinformed, but I don’t think it’s an insult to either genre of music.

First one second: I think it would be lovely if more people believed citizenship entailed service and responsibility. I think one of the great tragedies of the current war was the strategy choice that asked nothing of any of us not in the military except for us to go about our lives, and surrender a few key civil liberties. It made sense for the administration to do it this way — it fit their conception of what this war was going to be — but I think the disengagement it engendered on this end was not a good thing.

Anonymous Coward: “The Singularity – fact, fiction or somewhere between?”

Nothing ever happens the way science fiction authors imagine it will, and this will be a perfect example: The Singularity, if and when it happens, will happen like the iPod or the television happened: One day a few fashionable geeks will be caught up in it, and a year later everyone will be part of it, and no one will think anything much about it after that. The Singularity will happen and it’ll seem like a perfectly normal thing, and as a culture we’ll still want to know if Britney is walking around without underwear.

Rebecca Hb: “What are your thoughts and evaluations on the short story market for genre writing these days?”

I think it’s fine; I think it’s changing. I think, for example, that the short story SF magazines like Asimov’s and F&SF better rethink at some point or continue to face the slow leak of subscribers they seem to have now; I also think that eventually the entire genre short story market, save for anthologies, is going to be online, and that writers and publishers need to find a way to make that work economically, since writers will still want to get paid.

I wish there were a way to make writing short fiction generally more remunerative for writers, but I don’t know if there’s a solution that will work globally. Personally, with the exception of creating collectors’ items like The Sagan Diary, short fiction doesn’t pay enough for me to consider it as a viable income generator, so my solution is to view short fiction, basically, as a loss leader and a playground to experiment with my writing. This is why I’ve done relatively little of it, compared to my contemporaries in SF.

Randomscrub: “What drove you to get a philosophy degree as an undergraduate, rather than English or something else typical for a writer?”

Well, to be honest, what drove it was that at the end of my third year in college, I looked at the courses I took and realized that I had enough credits to graduate with a philosophy degree right then, whereas any other concentration of study would require five years to graduate. So I said “Hmmm, guess I’m a philosophy major,” and then had a very relaxed fourth year, which is atypical at the University of Chicago.

As for why I focused more on philosophy to begin with: Well, because it’s an interesting subject. I was taking English courses, too, mind you, but my focus on writing was always more practical than not, and so for my education I wanted something theoretical and mind-expanding. It worked out well for me; writing at the newspaper (and freelancing for the Sun-Times and the alt-weeklies) gave me the practical experience in writing, while all the philosophy stuff kept my brain open and gave me an appreciation for learning for the sake of leaning. That was a good combination.

Adam Rakunas: “Have you ever had a fanboy moment?”

Well, yeah. My biggest one was probably when I interviewed John Woo, right around the time of that Van Damme movie he directed as the cost of getting his foot in the door in Hollywood. We had a perfectly good and useful interview where I was all professional and everything. And the minute I turned off the tape recorder and the interview was over, I got all gushy on him. Because he was John Woo, man.

However, I do suspect I’ve had fewer fanboy moments than a lot of folks, because one of the things you eventually grok about famous people if you spend any amount of time near them (and I did while I was a film critic) was that the smarter, less neurotic ones actually get bored getting squeed over. Most of them want to be treated like normal humans. Doing so is not always possible, particularly in an interview situation, which is how I saw most of them, but the closer you get to that, the more comfortable they feel, and the more they appreciate it. Mind you, that’s if they’re smart. There are lots of folks who want you to make a big deal over them. These are not the sort of folks I’m like to get fanboy about.

Jess: “Being accused of using Mary Sue’s in your writing, you sort of wrote about that already but how do you think that will affect future stories you write, especially changing genres?”

Well, to be clear, I’m not really concerned about the accusations of Mary Sue-dom in my work. Honestly, if I was going to put myself as a Mary Sue in my work, the novel would have to be about an unshaven writer in a bathrobe staring at a computer screen all day. There’s no market for that. Also, I don’t really mind when people accuse me of making my main characters my Mary Sue, since my main characters are, you know, generally competent dudes having interesting adventures. I mean, I wish my life was that interesting. Minus, I hasten to add, all the pain I put my characters through. I do have to say that when people complained to me that John Perry seemed unusually lucky, my response was, “Well, I did have him lose half his body in a horrible shuttle crash.” I mean, come on. The dude was so tore up he kicked his own uvula. I’m not entirely sure I’d want that kind of luck.

My main characters to date have been generally competent, primarily because generally competent protagonists are useful in moving the plot along at a nice clip. Will my protagonists always be like this? I don’t think so, and I don’t think that’s been all I’ve written; I don’t think Jared Dirac of The Ghost Brigades was a classic “competent man” character, for example. I will say that I think people like competent characters in the lead, so if you make one that doesn’t fit that mold, you have to make sure you put in the extra work, to give readers something to grip unto regarding the main character.

Girl Detective: “I am in the middle of reading You’re Not Fooling Anybody…, and the question that plagues me is if you’re making so much money, and living in not-quite-Dayton OH (which I know from; I was born in Columbus and lived in Granville), what are you doing with all that money? Saving it for your kid’s college? I just don’t get it. Why not live in a good city with a slightly higher cost of living, with good politics, good culture, that’s still a good place to raise kids, like Minneapolis, where I’m writing from? But really, I’m still baffled. What are you doing with all that money in the boonies of OH?”

At the moment, I’m going to pay taxes with it, since my income went up a bit this last year (as did our overall household income), and we got a nice fat tax bill to go with it. As they say: Oh, joy. I don’t begrudge the amount of taxes I pay – I think it’s a fair amount – but sending off a check for the amount I haven’t already paid in quarterlies isn’t going to be pleasant.

The reason I live where I do is that this is where Krissy’s family is. I once dragged Krissy across the entire country when I got a job at America Online; later, when she decided to drag me to Ohio so she could be near her family, it was only fair I go without too much complaint. I would dispute that this is not a fine place to raise a kid, incidentally: Athena is surrounded by a supportive extended family, her school is small and she gets personalized attention, and she has a yard to play in and explore that’s larger than most city parks. Later, when Athena becomes a teenager, I suspect she’ll not be able to wait to get out of this small town, which I think will be fine. Right now, however, it’s ideal.

Likewise, although I would hesitate to call this the perfect environment for me, I actually like where I live. I suspect you overestimate our isolation — I’m close enough to civilization, for example, that I can take in a Rembrandt exhibit or watch a ball game if I want to, and while the politics of my county are a little conservative for my tastes, the people here are excellent neighbors and fine folks. And of course we are not so isolated that we cannot get whatever daily culture we choose through TV, Internet and Amazon. We’re doing fine on that score. Really, it’s not so bad. This is Ohio, a densely populated state. Nothing is so isolated that you’re more than 45 minutes from a reasonably-sized city.

As to what I spend money on: The usual. We do put away for retirement, we are planning for Athena’s education, I buy lots of books and electronic toys, and so on. We also travel a bit. In short, we spend our money the same way other people do — although we spend less of it on housing and cost of living. Which is, you know, nice.

Scot: “In the spirit of L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology, what are your thoughts on your sci-fi work being adopted into/the basis of a cult in the future?”

Do I get free sex out of it? With hot women? When I’m old and wrinkly and there would be no other reason I would get said sex? If so, the answer is: Eh, still probably not. I’m not entirely sure I’d want to be in the company of people who fetishized my work to that extent. It might have made Hubbard happy, but this is just another way in which he is not me. The other ways, in case you were wondering: I don’t like sailor hats, and I look terrible in a cravat. There it is.

Thanks everyone for all your questions this Reader Request Week. Let’s do again, oh, in about a year. Also remember that you don’t have to wait for Reader Request Week to ask me to write about something: I like it when people ask me my opinions about things. Just send along an e-mail.

40 Comments on “Reader Request Week 2007 #7: Short Bits II: Electric Boogaloo”

  1. Yay! I get first comment!Concerning the idea of a cult based on your writing, the following post occurred on rec.arts.sf.written recently:There is, or course, the Church of the Evolved Lamb, but  A) Android’s Dream isn’t exactly apocalyptic, and&mbsp; B) Scalzi is a twisted SOB.

  2. A couple of comments on your responses:
    YA sf&f is definitely hitting the schools. Last fall, I wandered into a Borders (something rare, since my wife owns an online children’s bookstore and I get to buy wholesale), and saw the books set out for each local school’s reading list. Aside from Farenheit 451 1984 and Brave New World, there was Golden Compass, Ender’s Game and a couple of others.

    Golden Compass was a surprise — I expected that it would take much longer for books to make their way into curricula. Westerfeld will probably get wider inclusion over time, assuming that the social issues he addresses don’t become obsolete — unlikely.

    On Pop/Punk, there seems to be a nice punk revival with bands such as TV on the Radio (Wolf Like Me, if it were half as long, could easily be a Ramones hit). But most (not all) punk bands themselves morph into something in the Power Pop spectrum, or self destruct, because if you can’t learn to sing and play your instruments after a few years, you can run out of audience, things to say or even will to get up on stage. The challenge is to not be called a sellout in the road to pop.

    Punk stalwarts: Henry Rollins, The Ramones
    Punk transformers: The Clash, Green Day, Nirvana->Foo Fighters

  3. “the novel would have to be about an unshaven writer in a bathrobe staring at a computer screen all day. There’s no market for that. ”

    Dang it. (delete delete delete). There goes *that* novel idea. :)

  4. Thank you for your patriotizism/current war comments. (I know, sp?) This is one of the few major conflicts in which our government has not asked anything of the general populace.(Gulf War didn’t ask much of us) It makes it easy to forget what’s going on and not worry too much about it all. Not good. Citizenship has its responsibilities as well as rights.
    Besides, I wasn’t using those civil liberties anyway;)

  5. I hate/despise/loath the idea of anything moving entirely on line. On line books are the most inconvenient form of literature.

    A good book is a friend. When you pull it off your bookshelf it is warm and heavy in your hand and feels comforting.

    A book is your companion on rainy days when you want to snuggle onto your window seat (I wish) or your comfortable chair and lsiten to the rain on the roof while you read.

    You can’t take an electronic book reader into the shower. According to my wife I am the only loony in the world who reads in the shower – impossible with electronics.

    I have an entire bookshelf of volumes I love but even in those there are specific parts that I love more than others and when I pick up the book it falls open to that part and I read it again.

    It is much easier to “page thru” a real book to find a particular spot than it is to do the same in an electronic book.

    For people who truly love the reading experience there is something almost (or actually) sensual about the book, the surroundings, the experience. There is nothing sensual about the computer – even porn isn’t sensual on the computer.

    The forum for electonica is in your CD player in the car on commutes and trips, or your IPod while held hostage by an airline. If yo are in your home, or a library, or – heaven forfend – a coffee shop, heft the sweet weight of the volume, consider the long trail of effort that has been necessary to turn an author’s dreams into this book, take a sip of your beverage, snuggle into your chair or sofa or hammock and give yourself to the story.

  6. I wonder how long it’s been since Girl Detective actually lived in Ohio? I grew up in Dayton and wanted nothing more than to get out and live in a “real city.” I spent a few years in a Chicago suburb (Aurora), a year in DC (Capital Hill), then several years living and working in the Boston suburbs (Framingham & Chestnut Hill). When my husband & I both lost our jobs due to corporate takeovers in April 2002 we considered Denver (love the city, no family) and Dayton (thought I’d hate the city, lots of family).

    Years later, I’m glad we chose Dayton. It has it’s issues (a sad lack of a thriving downtown being the biggest but they are trying to rememdy that) but it’s actually a good place to live. Housing is affordable, the school districts run from great to bad like every other place in the world, it’s got culture (and what we don’t have is an hour away in Cincy or Columbus) and really good colleges. If it wasn’t for the winters I would upgrade it to a great place to live. (The temperature should never drop below 50 in my opinion.)

    I do sometimes feel like the lone liberal on the block but a lot of that is perception. Anyone who thinks that all of Ohio is the hotbed of the red states has never been to Yellow Springs.

    And all I could really think about her comment was “She lives in Minneapolis and is bagging on Dayton? The Mall of America isn’t exactly the cultural cornerstone of the country.” But that’s just what I think of as someone who doesn’t live there and is basing all my opinion of the place on popular media and a serious bias against snow and cold.

    Or as my father says, “Speak not of what you know not of.”

  7. Later, when Athena becomes a teenager, I suspect she’ll not be able to wait to get out of this small town, which I think will be fine.

    My husband, making conversation with my father, as we drove into Dayton (where my father grew up) for his first Big Family Event from my side: Soooooooooo… what do people do for fun in Dayton, anyway?

    My father, without so much as pausing for thought: They leave.

  8. Do I get free sex out of it? With hot women? When I’m old and wrinkly and there would be no other reason I would get said sex?

    I think that’s what Heinlein was angling for, not Hubbard. :-)

  9. I’ve been lurking for a while, but I had to poke my head out to add my defense of Ohio to the mix. I grew up in Lebanon, just south of Dayton, and I have to say I think it’s a great place to raise kids.

    I also think it’s entirely normal for almost everyone to have a period of time when all they want to do is get out of the town they grew up in – in the end, some return and some don’t. It’s just the nature of things.

    I haven’t read the books yet but they’re on my list… and drat Tobias for linking to you enough that I came over and got hooked on another blog.

    Great Q&As by the way.

  10. In either 1967 or 1968 I got a A or A+ in a High School English Literature class for a long book review of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Of course, I stuck to standard English Lit paradigm, such as discussing the “man” in Manny and the “paz” in de la Paz as signifiers. Back then 40 years ago — it felt rebellious to get credit for Science Fiction.

    I do take the Heinleinian Competent man (and Woman) very very seriously. And told him so. I try to live up to that idea. So does my wife. We raised our son that way, and he’s better at it than we are.

    Specialization is for insects!

  11. Okay, I may be a bit behind the times, but what is “The Singularity”? (The only singularity I’m familiar with is the sort described in Niven’s Ringworld with respect to FTL drives.)

  12. I’m with Old Jarhead when it comes to real paper books. But, I started reading electronic CC versions when Scalzi recommended Peter Watts’ Blindsight and I was waiting for the actual book to arrive from Amazon. I use a number of machines but I mostly use my Gateway M280 Tablet, and I found that I really liked reading on the bright backlit screen, something about my middle-aged eyes I guess. In tablet mode and vertical orientation, the screen edge multi-function controls make it simple to scroll through the text one-handed, bookmark passages I want to re-read later, or add notes without the clunkiness of the usual laptop interface (and yes, I’m the kind of guy who takes notes while reading scifi novels). Also, since I travel a lot and I have to take the damned laptop along, I find that I can download CC books and stories along with my research and lecture materials rather than lug hard copy books through the airports. When I was in Iraq, I used to download text to my Sony PDA and read when I could, but the small screen and relatively short battery life put a real limitation on the experience. The 12 hour battery life on the M280 is a major improvement and I’m looking forward to more and more media in CC format, I wouldn’t even mind paying a fee for it. It would convenient to be able to surf an online bookstore, and download what I want while stuck in some damned TSA infested airport. Additionally, I probably wouldn’t have ever read Peter Watt’s most excellent work, if I hadn’t been able to download the CC version first. Since then I’ve bought all of his books in hardcopy.

    All and all, I’m finding that I enjoy electronic media almost as much as I enjoy paper. My tablet isn’t water-proof though, so I can’t use it in the shower like Old Jarhead, but then again, I didn’t even know that Marines took showers. I thought they just got hosed down once a month along with their equipment…

  13. Gottacook: Almost forgot, if you’re a Niven fan, his latest collaboration with Brenda Cooper Building Harlequin’s Moon alludes to the Singularity and much of what drives many of the story’s principle characters are based on it. All in all, an excellent book and the best work Niven has produced in a long time – though I understand Ms Cooper wrote most of it.

    Hey, Scalzi, there’s an idea, how about an Author Interview with Brenda Cooper?

  14. Jim Wright: I’m willing to have a look at your recommendation, but I’m not really a Niven fan other than with respect to his pre-Mote work: Ringworld (my coverless Ballantine copy obtained in 1971, which I still have, has the original uncorrected opening wherein Louis makes his series of midnight jumps east-to-west), a number of the earlier stories, the novellas “Rammer” and “The Fourth Profession,” etc. Could never get into any of the novels from more recent decades, collaborative or solo. Among other reasons, if there is a Dramatis Personae/Cast of Characters at the front, this is immediately off-putting – and such a thing has been featured in books from Mote through the latest Ringworld sequel.

  15. Gottacook: I assume that’s you anon post 03:32. I’m the opposite, I love the Dramatis Parsonae style. And if I remember right Building Harlequin’s Moon is one of them. But there are many works on this subject. All the Vinge stuff is uniformly excellent, you might try Charlie Stoss’ stuff, Accelerando or the Eschaton series or Ken McCleod’s The Stone Canal or especially Newton’s Wake. Brenda Cooper also has her first solo work out this month The Silver Ship and the Sea which is getting good reviews in the Seattle press.

  16. Well, to be clear, I’m not really concerned about the accusations of Mary Sue-dom in my work. Honestly, if I was going to put myself as a Mary Sue in my work, the novel would have to be about an unshaven writer in a bathrobe staring at a computer screen all day. There’s no market for that.
    Yippi-Aye-Eh, Yippi-Aye-Oh!  Typewriter in the Sky.    (Spoilers …)

  17. Does everyone know what Ohio’s state flag looks like? It’s different than any other state flag. It’s not square, but has two points like two pennants stuck together.

    My girlfriend asked me why they get to have such a cool flag, and I said “because they don’t have anything else”

    har har.

  18. I, too, am with Old Jarhead re: paper books.

    When I was a kid, my father always had a different book next to every chair in the house (including 3 toilets) and would pick up whichever book he sat next to.

    He also had a coal miner’s helmet with the lamp on it so he could read while walking the dog.

    I didn’t inherit the same habits, but I definitely have his attitude.

  19. I, too, perfer real books. I’m reading a book now that says it actually makes it harder for kids to learn to read when you rely on computers instead of books. What the authors are saying makes sense to me. In case you are wondering – no, I haven’t read all the studies referenced.

  20. Note that I was not talking about books in the entry; I was talking about short fiction.

  21. John: Yes I know you were talking about short stories but I generally read those in the context of collections which are books. So far as I know there is no equivalent of the 45 “single” for stories. So short stories either have to be read in a book or magazine or on line.

    Jim Wright: 1983 and I was outside of Berbera Somalia with 7th Amphibious Brigade. You know how you hear people say about places that it may not be the A-hole of the earth but you can see it from there? You had to look backwards to see the A-hole of the earth from Berbera. 120 degrees, 40 knot winds, everything that grew had thorns and everything that crawled bit you. 3 weeks and no shower when we got the word to put on shorts and climb in the “6 By”. We did and were trucked to the water point and directed to stand on some pallets that had been laid out. About 30 of us shoulder to shoulder. Sea Bee hauls out a firehose and hoses us all down for a few seconds – pause to soap up – hose down for a few seconds and back to the truck. So it turns out you are exactly correct. I’ll save my sea story from RVN about “2/Lt Showershoes”

    Amusing side note – officer was late to the truck to go for the washdown – sprinting through the sand. Eating the mobile rats often gave a good case of the trots – as he is almost to the truck he staggers, stops, blushes and walks away having just experienced an airburst.

    Jim – are you in Seattle area?

  22. Jarhead: There’re chapbooks, but I don’t know if they’re a cost efficient means of distribution.

  23. Old Jarhead, yep I think my record for no shower is about three weeks, in Bosnia, got so I would have killed anybody for a pair of clean skivvies. Oh the fun, not going to miss that part at all. That and MRE’s, won’t miss those either. In 83 I was picking up pieces in a delightful place called Beirut, speaking of the rectal orifice of the world. Missed the bombing by a day, was on the rescue detail. And to answer your question, I live in Palmer, Alaska. The Navy in their infinite wisdom just decom’d my command and I’m waiting for retirement, so until June I’m on detached duty. Mostly nowadays I work in my woodshop and go TDY to teach a specialized form of tactical warfighting doctrine. One of the examples I use in the class is the Somali sheepherder early warning system – burning tires. Oddly enough, I was just teaching at Whidbey Island, north of Seattle, last week. SeaTac is a pain, anybody know when the construction is going to be finished? Getting in and out in a rental car bites.

  24. Old Jarhead, they didn’t spring for the “clear coat finish” and the pine tree air freshiners for you guys? That cost must have gone to some supply seargent’s SUV. :)

  25. Steve: Clear Coat and Air Fresheners are out perpetually out of stock in Navy/MC supply system. The sensitive Air Force Officers have priority.

  26. It’s true Italian is not “practical” in the sense of there being many people in the States who talk it, but bear in mind:

    Italian is one of the easiest languages to learn
    Unlike the people from the country due West from Italy, Italians appreciate foreigners who make the effort of learning a bit of Italian
    There is a large and thriving SF market in Italy (most of it for works translated from English)
    If you like cool SF covers, Italy is the place (in my biased opinion). For example, check out any of the 1500+ covers from Urania (I especially recommend the covers starting with issue n. 261 or so, painted by the late Karel Thole, a Dutch artist who did hundreds of them)

  27. “as a culture we’ll still want to know if Britney is walking around without underwear.”

    I thought that question was pretty well decided.

  28. “It’s true Italian is not “practical” in the sense of there being many people in the States who talk it, but bear in mind:”

    I spent three years in Napoli 76-79 and Italian is very practical if you want to be enormously civilized and stroll through the archeological, historical, and cultural treasures of ancient and modern Italy. And Italians are wonderful people besides.

    Go for Italian John – take Krissy and Athena and spend a summer – you’llnever regret it.

  29. Jim Wright “The sensitive Air Force Officers have priority.”

    Well, we actually went for the “new car smell” oil spray. Lasts longer, and the chicks dig it.

  30. I cannot agree more with your assessment of short story markets. There is not a good way to make money in short form, so it forces writers to either accept that they will be cash poor or choose to go for longer form. It’s something I wrestle with, and like you I end up writing short fiction for my own entertainment and to exercise writing muscles that novel writing doesn’t use (fast twitch vs. slow twitch writing muscle).

  31. Wait. People assign science fiction in school? COOL! They should. Most of those kids wouldn’t know a decent sci-fi read if it bit them.

  32. I, too, winced a little at Girl Detective’s “why not live in a good city” query, having lived most of my life in Ohio. Ouch. It’s not that bad, we swear! Although I’ve traveled quite a few places both in the U.S. and overseas, I’ve always thought of my hometown as being a somewhat boring place to visit, but a good place to live.

    Besides, I’ve been to Minnesota. The mosquitoes there would leave your body a withered, bloodless husk if you let them, and marinating yourself in Deep Woods Off! only makes them angry.

  33. Thanks for addressing my topics.

    I actually have far stronger opinions about music than I do politics.

    To add to the opinions of my brothers in arms commenting here, paperback books will always have a market as long as their are Soldiers, rucksacks, and long deployments. I thank John for my electronic copy of TGB, but I did print parts to read when I knew I’d be away from my computer but would have time on my hands.

    A-hole of the world: Until you’ve been to Iraq, you are not even close.

    The Italian language, I prefer it to French or Spanish, and it seems to be pretty easy to pick up just by hearing it used in the streets when I visit Italy.

    As for Ohio, it seems like for a span of several years in the late ’80’s, a large percentage of the Playmates were from Ohio, and there’s nothign wrong with that.

  34. Ha! When I was within a few classes of finishing my master’s degree, I realized I was closer to fulfilling the requirements for an MS in Finance than for the degree in Accounting.

    Accordingly, I now have an MS in Finance.

    Sloth is the real mother of invention.