The Sagan Diary: Available Online
Posted on November 12, 2007 Posted by John Scalzi 26 Comments
I’m delighted to announce that Subterranean Press has decided to post the complete text of “The Sagan Diary” at Subterranean Online.
For those of you unfamiliar with TSD, it’s a novelette (about 12,500 words) that’s set in the Old Man’s War universe, between the events of The Ghost Brigades and The Last Colony. It’s the first time that Jane Sagan, the only character in the series who has appeared on all the books, comes forward and tells her own story, discussing her life and her views on war and friendship and love and any other number of topics. For “Sagan,” it helps to have read at least The Ghost Brigades for the full impact (and if you’ve read both TGB and Old Man’s War, so much the better), but I snuck in an introductory section to the story which should give you your bearings even if you’ve read neither. And for those of you who have read The Last Colony, it’ll help put Jane’s travails in that book in a whole new light.
I’m going to toot my own horn here and tell you I think “The Sagan Diary” is some of the best writing I’ve done so far, in no small part because it’s almost entirely unlike anything else I’ve written (and released publicly). Anyone who reads me knows I’m good with dialog and action scenes and the frequent snarky aside. There is none of that here; I wrote an entire story that goes on entirely in someone’s head. I generally avoid description; this is all description. I’m good at writing men; Jane is, well, a woman. Everything I find easy to write I pointedly didn’t write here.
And I have to say, it just about broke my head. Writing this was hard, because I didn’t let myself just slide into the stuff I knew I was good at, although I was sorely tempted more than once. But there were two things going on. First, as a writer, I wanted to exercise writing muscles I hadn’t used before, and doing it in a novelette made more sense than trying it in a novel. Second, the character of Jane Sagan herself demanded this, because Jane is not like my “usual” characters; She’s not quippy, she’s not wordy, she’s not an easy communicator. There’s a lot that goes in her head that doesn’t come out of her mouth. I wanted to get at that. Sometimes as a writer it sucks wanting to be true to a character you’ve made, because it’s a hell of a lot of work. But I know if I wrote something where Jane didn’t match the way I knew her to be, and it got published and became part of the public idea of who Jane is, it would bother me until the day I died. “The Sagan Diary” was hard as hell for me to write, and I nailed it. I am damn proud of it — again, I think it’s some of my best work.
(Which is not to say that other people always agree with me. Go to TSD’s Amazon page and read the reviews, and you’ll find people who there who absolutely loathe it, or are confused by it because it’s unrepresentative, relative to other work in that universe. And you know what? I’m fine with that. Whenever you do something different it’s going to hit some people wrong. Mind you, it doesn’t make them Philistines or something for not appreciating my art — really, I’m not that precious about it. I’m sorry that they didn’t like it, I totally understand why they didn’t, they can expect that I’ll write something more to their liking soon, and I wouldn’t change a thing about how I wrote “The Sagan Diary.”)
“The Sagan Diary” text is now available online (and don’t forget the audio version is also freely available), but Subterranean is also keeping the book itself in print — indeed, Bill Schafer, Subterranean’s publisher, has just ordered a third printing of the trade edition of the book, which if I may say so is pretty damn spectacular business for a novelette in book form. I hope if you read it and like it that you’ll consider getting the book version, for a few reasons. The first is that, well, then I’ll get paid. That’s always a plus. The second is that what’s not online is Bob Eggleton’s really excellent artwork, both on the cover and inside the book itself. The third is that, well, I think the story just lives better in book form. One of the things you learn when you get published is that a book isn’t just about the text; there’s a whole aesthetic that goes with the book, and that esthetic matters. This is one of the reasons I think that printed books are going to be around for a while, in some form or another.
Suffice to say I think if you like “The Sagan Diary”, you’ll want to consider getting it in book form. Also, it makes a lovely holiday gift for the SF readers you know and love. And so on. Here it is on the Subterranean Web site (where you can get the regular edition, and where a few copies of the limited signed edition are still available), and if you want to shave a couple bucks off the asking price, here it is on Amazon.
In any event, I hope you’ll read it, and I hope you like it, and I hope you’ll see just why I’m proud of it. And I hope you’ll tell your friends! Enjoy, and thanks to Bill and Subterranean for letting it go online.
Now I might just buy the thing, to help kill the idea that giving something away will kill sales. Way to appeal to my morals, you old earth heathen you.
Yeah, i’m so buying it. I’ve just about worn out the mp3s of this novelette. I’m pretty surprised that so many people disliked it. Even though it’s a different style, I didn’t feel it betrayed Jane’s character at all and to chastise an author for exploring with a different style is stupid. I prefer when writers I like experiment with their own works. It’s beautifully written and very honest to Jane’s feelings. Almost makes me think she’s real.
TSD is absolutely different and wonderful. I agree that from a “pure” literature perspective, it is probably the best thing you’ve published that I’ve read. Frankly, Scalzi, it makes me feel cheated by the other books. (kidding. only kidding.) It probably would have wrecked the pacing of the rest of the GST to throw that kind of stuff in. But, damn, a couple of those monologues are achingly beautiful.
I bought the hardback version, and felt like I stole it for the price. If you want to tide us over ’til Zoe’s Tale, you could toss us a couple more like that. Y’know, just to keep the muscles toned.
I think your naming of the Colonel is adorable. For the rest…I’ll see what’s on the go once I’ve finished this. I’m a poor grad student and it pains me because when I do have money, books are not what I think of, so I’ve only read what you’ve made available online. But just keep pricking me, Scalzi. Keep pricking. I’m sure all your stuff is worth buying, I just need the right reminder at the right time.
*settles in to read*
I’ve just now read it for the first time (instead of grading papers, poor students)… and, I’m speechless. I started sending parts of it to my partner, and then realized I was sending practically the whole damned thing and just sent him the link (he, too, has read everything but this story).
You’re an amazing man, and an amazing writer. Thank you.
I got to read this a couple months ago and I loved it. I was beyond impressed with the style and voice. GO YOU! :)
I agree “The Sagan Diaries” is one of your best. It was a great read. A classy move on your part to put it on Subterranean Press for free.
I can haz FREE Scalzi!
Which just means I’ll have to shell out for one of the signed/limiteds for the collection.
It never showed up at my local sci-fi bookstore, so I never even ran across it. I’ll give it a spin online and see if it’s worth snagging from Amazon.
This is the main failure mode of my ordinary modes of book shopping (browse local sci-fi store, grabbing books I recognize from good reviews online; occasionally fill in gaps with ebooks) — if a book never shows up in my local store, or does so only after I’ve had many months to forget the reviews (why oh why do so many publishers taunt us with months between review copies and actual availability?), I just plain never get around to it unless I stumble across it in ebook form.
Indeed, this particular book would be unlikely to show up in a bookstore, because it’s something of a specialty item (12,500 words, 100 pages, etc).
Oooh, yay! I’ve never seen at at any of my bookstores either and I’m too young to get a credit card and order it over the internet. So this is excellent news.
I read it today after following a link from the subterranean press email newsletter, and the main thing I have to say is Thank You. It caused me to stop and think about my life and love, adding new perspective. That is really something for any piece of writing to do. Always looking forward to anything new from you!
FWIW, I bought the limited edition of “The Sagan Diary” prior to publication early this year, and I just saved the online text onto my laptop to make it conveniently available when travelling on business. I’ve done the same with several other books that I enjoy, own, and would not hesitate to re-read if I had free time to occupy in some distant hotel room.
My thanks to Bill and Subterranean for making this available on-line, and allowing me to upgrade my selection of fall-back literature. I generally carry several new dead-tree books with me everywhere, and most business-travel evenings are occupied with other activities anyway, but there are times when I’ve been away from home for long enough that it is a real blessing to have additional reading material available without the need to carry extra weight that I may or may not use on a given trip.
With best wishes,
– Tom –
Nice that you’re doing it, but I’m glad it came this late ;) I already listened to the audio version (if it was available as text online, I wouldn’t, which would be a pity) and it was great and most of the voices were beautiful. So I’ not interested in this version anymore, either — I’m *buying* this book together with all the other OMW ones (that I didn’t read yet) next time I do my semi-regular massive Amazon order.
Which is not to say that other people always agree with me. Go to TSD’s Amazon page and read the reviews, and you’ll find people who there who absolutely loathe it, or are confused by it because it’s unrepresentative, relative to other work in that universe. And you know what? I’m fine with that. Whenever you do something different it’s going to hit some people wrong. Mind you, it doesn’t make them Philistines or something for not appreciating my art — really, I’m not that precious about it. I’m sorry that they didn’t like it, I totally understand why they didn’t, they can expect that I’ll write something more to their liking soon, and I wouldn’t change a thing about how I wrote “The Sagan Diary.
Ironically, this is the only piece of fiction of yours that I have read that I have liked, no offense. Neither Android’s Dream or Old Man’s War did anything for me, but this was very good.
So. umm. more like this please? I realize mine is obviously the minority opinion on the matter and writing more like this would probably adversely affect your sales and possible make you sell your cats and family members to support your lavish lifestyle, but, hey, I would buy two.
Well, indeed, I’m not likely to stop writing the stuff I’m writing that sells really well, because, you know. My mortgage has needs. But I wouldn’t mind writing more along this line. One of the nice things about shorter work is that it allows me to fiddle with form at relatively low risk and see what I like and don’t.
Do you know when/if your stuff gets available though Webscriptions? The first Subterranean books went online a couple of weeks ago.
Anja: I don’t suspect so, at least in the short run.
I can’t wait to read it. Although I enjoy reading and rereading your other books, I didn’t care for the audio version of The Sagan Diaries, and didn’t buy a print version. I’m hoping that reading it will make a difference. I’m also hoping that it will help me look forward to Zoe’s story. I’ve been afraid that if I didn’t like one, I wouldn’t like the other. I don’t like not liking what you write. Thank you for a second chance.
Damn! I actually did NOT care for this one when I read it. For all the reasons John gave for saying it was his best writing, I felt it was too slow. I like the snarky action sequences!
I’d admit to having poor taste, except, I have pretty good taste, based on my opinions of young horror writers who are making it today.
Bob, you can have perfectly good taste, and just not like it. It’s okay; I won’t hold it against you.
Here is the new URL to read The Sagan Diary. Looks like subterranean changed up their directory structure a bit.
Is the Sagan Diary missing the last few words or is it meant to end abruptly and in mid-sentence?
K, I had the same question about whether I just couldn’t find the rest, or does it really end mid-sentence? Not just mid-sentence, actually mid-WORD…
I’m pretty sure it ends exactly where it’s supposed to: at the moment that Sagan is transferred to the new body. Yes, in mid-word. You don’t suppose they would wait for a natural pause point in her purely internal monologue, after all, do you?
As an illustration, John Sedgwick’s last words are often written “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dis”