Reader Request Week 2008: Get Your Requests In!

Every year, right around this time, I put away my imbecilic obsessions here at Whatever and turn the spotlight onto your imbecilic obsessions instead. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, it’s time once again for Reader Request Week, in which you call the shots — you choose the topics I write about — you make me dance like the proverbial monkey. No topic is off limits, no request too serious or ridiculous, no query left unconsidered! It’s my way of thanking you for your readership, and also, a way to rest my brain and not have to think up what damn fool thing to write about next.

Here’s how it works: You think up of a topic you want me to expound upon, and put it into the comment thread. Starting next Monday (3/31/08), I’ll start picking subjects to write about from the suggestions left by all y’all. It’s just that simple.

This will be the sixth year we do Reader Request Week, so to avoid repeats, here’s what’s been asked and answered from the previous years:

From 2003:

Reader Request #1: The Middle East
Reader Request #2: Life Online
Reader Request #3: TV
Reader Request #4: Testing Preschoolers
Reader Request #5: Jealousy
Reader Request #6: Immigration
Reader Request #7: Ohio
Reader Request #8: Writing
Reader Request Wrapup

From 2004:

Reader Request #1: Boys and Girls
Reader Request #2: The Meaning of Life
Reader Request #3: Can Writing Be Taught?
Reader Request #4: Fatherhood and Pie
Reader Request #5: Objective Newspeople
Reader Request Week 2004 Wrapup

From 2005:

Reader Request #1: Creative Commons and FanFic
Reader Request #2: Peak Oil
Reader Request #3: Beatles, Batman and They
Reader Request #4: Pot!
Reader Request #5: Odds and Ends

From 2006:

Reader Request #1: SF Novels and Films
Reader Request #2: 10 Childhood Nuggets
Reader Request #3: Writers and Technology
Reader Request #4: The Nintendo Revolution
Reader Request #5: A Political Judiciary
Reader Request #6: Paranoid Parents
Reader Request #7: Writing About Writing

From 2007:

Reader Request #1: Justifying My Life
Reader Request #2: Coffee, or Lack Thereof
Reader Request #3: BaconCat Fame
Reader Request #4: The Inevitable Blackness That Will Engulf Us All
Reader Request #5: Out of Poverty
Reader Request #6: Short Bits
Reader Request #7: Short Bits II: Electric Boogaloo
And there you have it.

Okay, so: What do you want me to write about? Put it in the comment thread, and beginning Monday, we’ll get this party started.

180 Comments on “Reader Request Week 2008: Get Your Requests In!”

  1. Well, I guess for starters, a California appellate court has just ruled that homeschooling parents must have teaching credentials in order to homeschool their children, which is somewhat controversial; there are a lot of homeschooling parents in California, and many don’t have the necessary certification. I’m curious what you think, and if you have any opinions on homeschool in general, as an alternative form of education. I’d be interested in any aspect of it that you would care to discuss.

  2. 1. You are the Benevolent Dictator Scalzi. You get to make 5 lasting changes to the United States. What will they be?

    2. You are the the Great God Scalzi, but sadly you are not quite omnipotent. In fact you only have the ability to create five new technologies. Which 5 technologies will you bestow upon humanity in 2008?

    3. In a blind taste test, can you correctly identify Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi, Coke Zero, Cherry Coke Zero, Diet Pepsi Wild Cherry, etc. And what does the outcome of this test say about humanity?

    4. George W., Hillary, Obama, and McCain spend the weekend at the Scalzis. Describe.

    5. Your wildest dreams come true and you get to select the production team to turn Old Man’s War into a movie. Who is on the team and why do they succeed at turning Old Man’s War into a great movie?

  3. From reading your books and reading and commenting on this blog, I know that your family is a very large part of your motivation to write, as well as the ability to spin out a readable story for us dweebs of readers. my questions are

    1. For not being in the military where did you pick up the “tactics” of the military mindset?

    2. Are more of your or Krissy’s family included in your stories/ books?

    3. What was the motivation for the OMW series, hopefully not just space opera?

    4. Are there more books in the OMW era in the works? If so, can you give us a tickle about them ?????

  4. * What font do you use to when you are writing, and why?

    * If you were going to be an 18th tradesman, in what trade would you prefer to work? (I suppose you could prefer not to be a scriviner)

  5. Sharecropping: Shared worlds, licensed characters, movie novelizations. Do you have less respect for authors that make a buck off this? Would you consider writing for such categories? If so, which one(s)?

    I have to admit I’m a “hayta” on this topic, authors that I would ordinarily run to purchase, I will in these cases shun.

  6. Tragedy of the commons: as it applies to the internet, specifically memes like rickrolling and applications with mixed legality like P2P.

  7. Thank you for doing this. I am looking forward to reading all of the suggestions from your readers. Here are a few of mine:

    1) The strong link between untreated depression, manic depressive disorder, and OCD, and self-medication with alcohol and illegal drugs (or legal meds used in an illegal manner) and how recognition and treatment of the above mental health issues could change our society and lift many people out of poverty.

    2) The three tiers of physical health care in this country and how it contributes to the disparity of the classes. In particular, how lack of affordable basic health care (this includes dental care) acts to keep poor people poor.

    3) In light of global climate change, when and where do you think the first major multinational war over fresh water rights will occur?

  8. When you are online, what do you do? Do you like any webcomics? Got any thoughts about internet culture or memes?

  9. I thought I’d toss in some writing/bookselling related questions in, on the off chance that nobody sends in any…

    1) Writing groups. I know you’re not a huge fan of workshops, so I’m wondering whether you write alone and revise from comments from friends/family/your agent/your editor, or if you have some kind of group that you share your work with that help you sort it out and get through rough plotting patches.

    Do you think that writing groups (perhaps you in the “field” call them something else) are useful, or might they stifle creativity? I’ve heard of published writers on both sides of the coin, and wonder about your thoughts.

    2) Independent bookstores. I cannot tell a lie, I work for an indie in Northern California, and I have a lot of authors well me that the kind of hand-selling that bookstores like mine do can really make a difference in sales. Your thoughts?


  10. The folks at Oberammergau have decided to update the Passion Play–using your novels as a template. You get to choose: Do your characters get “translated” to ancient Judea? Or do the traditional characters go to the OMW universe? Who plays which characters in which circumstance, and how do you make your decisions?

  11. 1. Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games. In particular, what is it about World of Warcraft that makes people go nuts over it?

    2. Grudge match of the 21st century, EMO vs. WEEABOO. Who wins? [Or not?]

    Long-time reader, very infrequent commenter.

  12. Not sure if I planted this bug in your head John, seeing how I emailed you yesterday with a request. Just in case you missed the email (and this is just weird coincidence), I read this article in about modern day Hiroshima and the legacy of the bomb.

    What are your thoughts about the bombing of Hiroshima? Would you have made the same decision as Truman? What is it about the deaths there that linger more in our collective imagination than all the other attacks on “civilian” targets during WW2?

    Bonus point question: In OMW you mention a future war between the USA and India that went nuclear. Can you add any details to how you imagine it started and what happened?

  13. At what point does or should personal distaste of the War in Iraq translate into disdain or disapproval for the Service members fighting in that fight? Is it possible to support the Soldier but not the War? If not, is it ‘unpatriotic’?

    On a related topic, some people think there should be a military draft. It is one of those topics that us professionals in the services are absolutely all over the map on. I can find ten people that think there should be a draft, but the same ten would say they would not want to serve with draftees. It is one of those mental disconnects amongst my peers I find fascinating. Anyrate, be curious to hear if you think there should be a draft? Why or why not? What would be the societal effect of having one? Is it moral to not want a draft, support the war, but counsel your child to not go into military service at any costs (personal experience from the recruiting front).

    Finally, perhaps a seperate topic or question on the seperation of military and politics. Is it a good thing? Do retired and active duty officers expressing their opinions violate the seperation of powers? Do military leaders have a ‘duty’ to speak out in public forums against bad policy decisions by elected officials? If they don’t, are they culpable for the bad consequences of not going public If they do, are they being disloyal to their oath of service? Quite the Catch-22.

    Anyrate, I think anyone of the three topics (particularly the third one) might make for an interesting posting. Thanks for your attention.

  14. 1. Is America ever going to take on metric? If not, why not? What measurement system should be ruling the world?

    2. Since the moon landing the human space program took a back seat. Now that China’s jumped in the US have announced it will take off again. What’s the realistic (not hopeful sci-fi one) future of the HSP for the next 100 years and who are going to be the big space players: China, NASA, ESA, Russia?

    3. Languages. ‘The History of English’ starts by basically declaring the English language as the pinnacle of language evolution. English does have a large vocabulary, but also incredibly simple grammar. The latter, combined with the economics of the last century resulted in it dominating the planet. Will it continue? Should it continue? Is it the most beautiful or worthwhile language?

  15. The Singularity. It’s clear that you avoid the concept/event in your books. This is not a slight against your work, as it’s clear that rapidly changing technology makes future predictions difficult to make. What do you think the likelihood of it is? Is this just a form of “Geek Religion”? If it happens, how will it effect us? Will you do a book that involves it (aka. Charles Stross)?

  16. 1) Oscar winners (in the past 10 or 20 years) that you think are undeserved/overrated

    2) Your list of top 10 (or top 5) non-science-fiction (or non-science-related) books and reasons why.

  17. The Top Five to Ten books/authors that have influenced or inspired your writing and why.

    Start campaigning for the Columbus zoo to let you tape bacon to various animals they tend to.

    The economy: recession or not a recession and why do people feel that labeling/declaring the recession will suddenly make things worse.

    Where will whatever be in 2, 5, 10 years.

  18. How about:

    1. What’s your gut feeling about the probability that there’s (a) life of any kind and (b) intelligent life somewhere out there in the vastiness of the universe? And how much do you care?

    2. Only Britain could have produced Eddie Izzard. Discuss.

    3. If you had to pick a new animal to represent the USA (assuming that it’s currently the bald eagle, and imagining that said bird has for some improbable but inescapable reason done something so heinous it must forfeit the honour), what would it be and why?

  19. To what extent does Paul Giamatti, who plays John Adams in the HBO series of the same name resemble John Scalzi?

    Maybe it’s just me, but I would like to see a thread that begins with Scalzi displaying a picture of himself in an 18th Century man-wig.

  20. 1. What’s the most important thing that you think that children are not being taught in school these days?

    2. As the father of an (intelligent) young daughter, what do you see are some of the pitfalls and difficulties of raising her in a beauty-driven society and how do you avoid them?

    3. How do you see the privacy/freedom issues working out? (eg. newborn DNA screening, government access to library records etc.)

    4. Where would you like to go that you haven’t been yet?

    5. What’s your idea of a perfect vacation?

  21. 1. You don’t seem to be a sports fan; any particular reason why?

    2. You also don’t seem to be a food fetishist, either in regards to tradition or modern dietary don’ts, or in worshipping a particular cuisine. If so, why? If not, enlighten us.

    3. If you weren’t living in south-west Ohio, where would you prefer to live.

    4. Tony George, CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway; defender of tradition or total idiot? Relate to how our society seems to be unusually afflicted with idiots in positions of authority in this day and age.

  22. I’d be interested in your thoughts on why some published author’s books take off and why some wither on the vine. Is it luck? Overall quality of writing? A great hook? Publisher support? Fate? Karma? Sex with the publicist? Sex with the editor/publisher/marketing staff/secretary and booksellers? Phases of the moon? Whaddaya think?

  23. Personal identity. When I first read OMW, I thought that you were setting up, as one of the running themes of the series, the question of identity: what makes a body at time 1 (e.g. an elderly ordinary human) the same person as a body at time 2 (a green-skinned supersoldier)? The evidence stacked up: you did a philosophy degree. Your main character was named after the editor of a well-known teaching anthology on this topic (John Perry ed., Personal Identity). The body-change scene early in OMW closely resembles some of the thought-experiments philosophers use to investigate this question. TGB continued the theme in a different way: what exactly is Jared’s relation to Boutin? This fits nicely with my own interests (I’m a lecturer in a UK philosophy department), and connected with the same theme in a lot of the other SF I was reading (McLeod’s Fall Revolution novels, Stross’s Glasshouse).

    This lovely theory about what you were doing took a bit of a hit when you revealed that John Perry was actually named after some of the members of Journey (am I remembering this right?). But I’m still interested in what you think: 1) about the nature of identity; and 2) about identity as a topic for SF.

  24. I would be interested in a discussion of the authors/books that influenced you the most. I read The Last Colony earlier this week and the first thing that popped out at me was the name Yoder – so I got to wondering if you were/are also a Michner reader since that was the name of the main character in The Novel.

    As a second option, what are your feelings/likes/dislikes about SF/F cons from an author/guest POV and from a regular attendee POV? Do you ever ‘just’ attend?

  25. Sam C. @ #29 spurred a thought with the Journey reference: time to dig out the critic hat again and rate the Top Ten Most Underrated Rock Vocalists of the past 30 years (or Top Ten Most Overrated – I’m not picky). I’m specifically thinking of lead singers for bands, but rock solo artists without a specific backing band (e.g., Robert Plant’s or Steve Perry’s solo efforts) would also be acceptable.

  26. Me. I think you should write a whole essay all about me!

    Or Doselle. Either one.

  27. You can have any super power(s) that you want. What would they be and why? Do you think you would be able to resist the temptations of using the powers for evil? Would you construct your own Fortress of Solitude hidden deep within the Ohio countryside?

  28. Are the Olympics purely a sports contest, or do international politics enter into the equation at some level? Should a country boycott the Olympics because China is mean to Tibet?

  29. I kinda like #33. Except, of course, me.

    But more likely, perhaps: investment advice, especially for folks in the rough category of ‘two incomes, one of which is >$160’.

    Alternatively, your six favourite French cheeses.

  30. Dealing with professional jealousy.

    I’m not talking about nasty, stalking vendettas or anything, but comparing of yourself to others in your field to an unhealthy degree. Seeing someone else succeed can be a personal motivator, especially if you can learn how they did it, but it can cross the line into harmful obsession when a lot of your emotional well-being gets wrapped up into it. I’d love to be the sort of person who never experiences pangs of real jealousy, but mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.


    Topic #1: Dealing with your own jealousy of a colleague’s success.

    Topic #2: Dealing with a colleague’s jealousy of your success.

  31. Why would Scalzi waste his time on any of these silly suggestions?

    The Executive Committee of The Official Ghlaghghee Fan Club has polled the membership and the following requests – no, demands! – were the result.

    1. Provide a detailed timeline, along with audiovisual supporting materials, of the Life of Her Shimmering Radiance from the moment She deigned to live with you to the present.

    2. Ditto Mighty Lopsided Cat.

    3. Ditto TempCat Zeus.

    4. Don’t bother with Anteater-Thing Kodi, as nobody of any import cares.

    5. Provide a detailed explanation of the top 100 ways in which Magnificent She improves your life.

    There were more demands, of course, but we have taken your limitations into account and will settle for these.

    The Official Ghlaghghee Fan Club

  32. Starting from the supposition that the physical properties and laws in our universe (speed of light, relative strengths of the forces, dark energy/matter, e=mc^2, quantum mechanics etc) didn’t happen by accident or by chance… Is there a God or Designer, even if it doesn’t care about individuals or even individual star systems? Use all the science you want, bash creationism or any other theory in existence to your hearts content.

    I’m currently reading Robert J Sawyer’s Calculating God, but I’m not done yet. The idea intrigues me though. You?

  33. 1. If you had the time to devote to studying a martial art, which one and why?

    Or . . .

    2. You’re a darned good writerly type. I likee the science fiction. And you reading habits seem fairly eclectic. So . . . favorite non-genre author: fiction and poetry. Please to tell why. Please.

  34. Alas, it seems that once again this year, my ever-more-pressing question — “Does this look infected to you?” — will be passed over.

  35. Puppy Mill Authors


    Does becoming a successful writer automatically degrade the quality of your successive works?

    Where I’m going with this (and this is not aimed at John in particular, he’s still relatively early in the game).

    It seems to me that for many authors – their first work is their “best” work. Specifically, the presence of subplots, character development, background story, etc – seem to be luxuries afforded to those that have been (I suspect) either polishing their work for years trying to get it sold, or have so much stinking money they can afford to take their time on their publishing schedule.

    Is it the demands of the “though shalt pop out a book every year”? Greed? Laziness? Incompetence?

    I’d be interested in hearing your views.

    (Said the fanboy who bought a hardcopy of “The Sagan Diaries” – there, now you know it’s not personal.)


  36. Why is science fiction on the Internet suddenly becoming more popular this year? Or maybe the question is: why are major organizations suddenly trying to build web offerings?

    Despite the closure of SciFiction: Gawker bought io9, Tor is launching a major initiative, SFWA is upgrading their online services, multiple major publishers are offering books online as free downloads. Why did it take everyone 10 years to jump on the band wagon?

  37. Battlestar Galactica. The fourth and final season starts in eight days, and they finally find Earth. Are you excited? What will they find … Ancient civilization? Future super-advanced world? Future world that slid back after global catastrophe? Will the Cylons be destroyed, or integrated?

    Or you could talk about Eddie Izzard some more. You can’t get too much Eddie.

  38. Here’s a doozie.

    Do you believe we live in a culture of fear driven by our anxiety of an unknown, highly politicized, media sensationalized aggressor? Or does terror stem from our materialistic apathy and over-dependence on a patriot act wielding, overly controlling government happily wearing an innocent sheep’s skin of a caring government?

    Is everything just fine in your own little Scalziverse, or do you carry supplies of duct tape and plastic wrap as mentioned in the government preparedness instructions?

  39. Why do you think Gender Swapping webcomics and anime (eg. Ranma 1/2,,, are so popular and what effect do you think this having on the youth of today?

    Oh and if you were suddenly gender swapped, what would your first reaction (and that of your family) be?

  40. My topic I’d like to hear your thoughts on would be the marginalization of genre and tie-in writing.

    Regardless of the history of the fantasy/sci-fi ghetto in bookstores stemming way back in the pulp era, what are your thoughts as to why the split continues, especially in light of “literary” authors writing (for all intents and purposes) f/sf but having it heralded as great new literature? (Yes, I’m looking at you, Margaret Atwood, Michael Chabon, and others.)

    So, why no love and respect for genre writing?

    It’s happening slowly but far too slowly–after all, H.P. Lovecraft’s in the Library of America only 71 years after he stopped writing (well, stopped everything really, having died and all).

    Steven Schend
    a genre-writer (worse yet, in some eyes, a writer for RPGs and RPG-fiction as well as genre fiction)

  41. 1) Make a video of Pro Scalzi debating Fan Scalzi about … um, something … maybe ’00 remakes of ’70s and ’80s SFF properties. Gollum-style loincloth optional.

    2) Speaking of the ’80s: Best and worst ’80s “teenagers” (e.g., Hall, Cusack, Fox, the Porky’s gang).

    3) Meditate on California and LA: annoying misconceptions; things no visitor should miss; are you a mountain, desert or ocean person.

    4) Inspired by your list of Christmas specials: Imagine some SNL political skits that never were — on the Jackson administration in 1985, for example, or on President Robertson in 1991, or the Bradley-McCain debates in 2000.

  42. 1. Electoral college. For or against? And why.

    2. William Poundstone (in his book Gaming the Vote) and others, have asserted that plurality voting often favors the least popular candidate in a three way race. What are your thoughts on various schemes (like approval voting and range voting) to address this failing?

  43. Are we inadvertently (or perhaps very deliberately) using genetic counseling to eradicate entire “types” of people (Down Syndrome, Turner Syndrome and others come to mind) that we seem to have decided don’t deserve to exist? Let me be clear, I am pro choice and am not condemning anyone for making these choices, but I truly believe that something is lost when we try and create a race of people that all fit into one particular view of “normal”.

  44. Photoshop hints and tips (or, how to avoid real work while playing around with your pictures)…

  45. Do you foresee changes to the structure and/or function of fiction in general, given the younger generation’s fascination with interactivity, nonlinear reading/research (via the Internet, embedded links, etc.)?

    Will we still have linear fictions or will they be holistic and wildly individual experiences, similar to research/history analyses like James Burke’s Connections series or his KnowledgeWeb Project (

  46. What’s Wil Wheaton really like?

    (OK, maybe a discourse on whether blogs/journals give an accurate view of the people who write them.)

  47. 55@ JohnH – I second that. I’m a water lawyer, of all things, and this is a very big deal indeed.

  48. From a CNN article today: “former Comptroller General of the United States David Walker…writes that our unfunded [social security and medicaid] promises translate into ‘an IOU of around $455,000 per American household’.”

    Well, umm. That’s a lot of cheese.

    Scalzi, I have a two part request: what is your favorite type of cheese? And what might the country look like when the check comes due, if you set the speculative fiction engine in your brain to the problem?


  49. I’d love to hear your thoughts on “Unfinished Stories”. What are your favorite stories that are missing that next or last book? Have any of your favorite characters ever been stuck in limbo?

    I guess this was sparked by reading theat Heather Gladney was going to be writing more of her “Teot” books as well as thinking about the Robert Jordan stories. As a reader, what characters are you eagerly awaiting further adventures or a safe landing? As a writer do you owe your characters some kind of closure? What are your thoughts on others completing the work for Tolkien, Herbert, or Jordan?

  50. re: comment 19

    I have to correct my point in question 3: the book was The Adventure of English that I was paraphrasing.

    That’ll teach me to go and look at the bookshelf before posting.

  51. John,

    How about the John Scalzi essential library of Science Fiction Authors and Works. Your take on the works most referenced, and perhaps the stuff which deserves more attention than it has received.

  52. Many people like to kvetch about the quality of cable television news networks. They’re biased and banal. They focus on the sensational rather than the news of consequence. The reporters know more about makeup than the stories they cover. The list goes on.

    OK. You run a 24-hour news network. What are your guiding principles and how do you put those into practice with 24 hours to fill, 7 days a week, 365/6 days a year?

  53. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the military-industrial complex and the proposed 2009 defense budget.

  54. 1) What’s it like to work with an agent?

    2) How do you think the technology portrayed on Future Weapons compares with whats in current SciFi?

  55. Since you’ve just celebrated the ten-year anniversary of writing your first scifi novel and in those ten years you have established yourself as being well on the path to becoming one of the most successful scifi writers of our generation, I think we can say it’s high time for you to partake in one of the most honored (or mocked depending on how you want to see it) traditions of science fiction writers: making future predictons. My reader request would be for you to do something along the lines of Heinlein’s “Where to” predictions and make 20 predictions on where you think we will be in 20-years. Nothing’s off limits: technology, social morals, politics, discovering intelligent life in the stars, creating artificial life here on Earth, etc. Make the predictions as funny or as serious as you want and feel free to illustrate them with your masterful photoshopery. You can also opt to go for the Clarke 100-years-out thing if you like, but I think the 20-years thing is a bit more your style being that you can look back in ten years and discuss how things are coming along.

  56. 1. Do you think with the growth of the amount of plastic surgery being done in the US that we’re creating our own “Aryan race” or maybe a subclass of humans similiar to hybrid cars?

    2. Organ transplants. It’s kind of a creepy thought to have someone else’s heart beating in your chest, or their kidney or eyes or whatever. How do you feel about it and do you think there’s any angles of organ transplants that science fiction writers HAVEN’t explored yet?

    3. Would you be surprised if aliens landed on Earth and we found out they’re human too? Would that be enough proof of the existence of God and that he created many worlds besides our own?

    4. What if when we died our pets sat in judgement of whether or not we got into heaven? What would all the pets you’ve owned say about you?

  57. What will the world be like in twenty years? If that is too broad, what technological breakthroughs are we likely to see, and what common SF technologies will remain out of our reach.

    For example – FTL drives, nano-technology, computer sentience, or really anything futuristic you’d like to talk about.

    Otherwise – what happened to the flying cars I was promised in the 50’s? Where is the visionphone? Where are the personal rockets flying between the planets? How about food pills that pop into complete meals? Why is cell phone service so crappy and why do people still buy it?

    I want to live in the paradise promised in my youth, dammit.

  58. 1. Watchmen was voted one of the best 100 novels in Time Magazine. An issue of The Sandman won the World Fantasy Award. Have comics finally gained acceptance as a recognized (by the Establishment) art form? If not, will/should they? And how does that compare to SF constantly getting the “high hat” (thank you Coen Brothers) from the literati?

    2. Would television shows like “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” be the hit it is had 9/11 not ocurred? How has 9/11 shaped what we watch on TV?

    3. Are we still evolving as a species? Will we exist as a species long enough to witness the next steps? What do you think that will be?

    4. Bugs really freak me the $#@! out. Do you have any irrational fears?

  59. Two possibilities:

    1. Is there a period in history you wish you had lived through?

    2. What was the biggest missed opportunity of the last fifty years?

  60. I’m interested in your writing process, particularly for novels.
    *How do you get from idea to manuscript?
    *Do you outline? How extensively?
    *Do you follow any particular structure, or do you just write and see where it goes?
    *How often do you revise, and what do you look for when you’re doing it?
    *How do you develop plot and characters?

    Thanks for considering.

  61. Big Ideas

    Which big ideas do you think haven’t been given the proper treatment yet, and which ones do you plan to write about?

  62. Productivity. As someone who recently made the transition from salary/office to freelance/home, I’m awed by the amount of work you produce.

    How do you manage to focus on cranking out the work AND maintain a family life AND engage in a fair amount of blog and Photoshoppery? All while (presumably) sleeping more than 2 hours per night.

    (I mean, aside from the ziggurat of Coke Zero beside your desk. UNLESS THAT IS YOUR SECRET.)

    (Note to self: drink more Coke Zero.)

  63. There is, in the history of literature, famous friendships, rivalries, and downright animosity between well-known authors.

    I’d like to hear your take on what your relationships are like with other professional writers. What’s it like when, at a con, you go out for dinner or a cup of coffee? Are you close(ish) friends with anyone we’d know? Or should I know that already?

    Your response to the recent SFWA elections was illuminating, but, I’d like a more intimate (not too intimate) view into the relationships of people engaging in the same pursuits. (I don’t have any close friends who do the same work I do.)

  64. Thoughts on writing violence.

    Some possible topics: What defines violent? Is it acceptable to enjoy the reading/writing of violent encounters when, as a thinking person, you are pretty sure that there is not much to enjoy about high levels of fear, anger and pain followed by either death or a slow and annoying recovery process? Does anyone really leave a fight all battered and bruised and then instantly have sex with their uber-hot and totally understanding partner?

  65. I’d like to hear your thoughts specifically on the approach to ‘mystery’ in writing and TV shows. To be more specific: J.J. Abrams recently gave a talk about his work at a college campus, or so the story goes, and presented to the audience a ‘mystery box’ that he’d purchased from a Magic store over 10 years previous. He didn’t know what was in the box (a $10 wrapped item) and stated that he didn’t WANT to know what was in it, because the apprehension of wondering what might be in the box was more interesting than actually KNOWING. This, of course, presumably informs his approach to Lost.

    Compare, then the approach of ‘Lost’ to that of ‘Heroes’, which tends to answer it’s mysteries nearly as quickly as it introduces them. I’d like to hear your opinion if either approach has more merit. Does Abrams’ approach constitute a violation of the implicit trust between creator and audience? Is it better to quest for the Holy Grail than to actually find it?

  66. what do you think about electronic/online publishing? do you feel that it will one day “take over” print publication? stm publishing is seeing a jump in preference for electronic publication, and last year sales of some e-products exceeded sales of their print counterparts. do you think that something similar will happen to popular publishing?

  67. You have mentioned a couple of times that you decided to wroite military sci-fi becasue that was what was selling when you did your market research. If financial returns were not a consideration (assume the OMW franchise becomes the Next Hot Thing and earns you f-you money) what kind of fiction, of any genre, would you most like to write?

  68. I’d like to know what you think about how many romance novels are being marketed as sci-fi. I usually see these on the shelves labeled as paranormal romances, or urban fantasies. Some are more blatantly obvious than others, but its hard for me sometimes ,as an avid book buyer, to find something that doesn’t make me cringe in disgust when I read it.
    I love reading sci-fi. And I even like a love story, as long as its relevant to the plot and not sappy. But some of what I’ve read lately has really crossed a line for me. I actually recently read a (sci-fi) book where the heroine twisted her ankle while running from the bad guy!!!!
    I wonder if we need a new category for the sci-fi/fantasy romantic realm, it would save me a lot of bother.
    BTW- one of the things I LOVE about your blog is the introduction to new authors!

  69. Suggest a long term (1 year) realistic social project that us Whatever readers can acomplish, hold a contest for one or more of of us to administer it, and set us loose on whatever cause you want us set loose on.

  70. When you’re writing, do you listen to music? If so, what kind of music, and how does it relate to the music you listen to when NOT writing?

    To Ed and Tripp in 76 and 77: My cat has opposable thumbs, but so far, all he uses them for is opening food his food box, and for building that robot-thing in the back room.

  71. My topic for Scalzi is: “Topics I feel authoritative about”

    John, you discuss a number of topics with a sort of freewheeling attitude that I sometimes agree with and sometimes do not. Generally, I can tell when you know what you’re talking about (writing, Ohio, Bratz, etc..) and sometimes I can tell when you don’t know what you are talking about (examples self-redacted to avoid pointless argument). I would like you to step forward and give some topics you feel authoritative on and the opposite if you wish.

    So, John what do you know?

  72. This week, CBS cancelled a great show called Jericho. For those who haven’t watched, it is highly recommended for its humanity, philosophy, drama, and conflict. General plotline: nuclear terrorists take out 23 American cities in a co-ordinated strike, leaving small town Jericho isolated and on its own. Jericho residents only know that their telephones and electricity stopped working suddenly and there is a mushroom cloud over Denver, some 90 miles away. The show raises phenomenally timely and important issues regarding security, trust in your friends and neighbors, and coping with crisis. It does so in a touching and personal way, with characters who are deep and interesting, and it will both move you and provoke you to think. Later in the seasons, it deals with questions like: which government is legitimate -East Coast / Columbus, West Coast / Cheyenne or Republic of Texas; what is lawful in ones’ own defense and when does one draw a line; as well as how deep should loyalty to a flag be in comparison to your own town. This is not presented as any sort of agenda, they are simply problems which crop up for people in this type of situation, and some six million viewers a week found it fascinating enough to tune in for season 2 after saving the series from cancellation by sending 40,000 pounds of nuts to CBS when they cancelled the show the first time.

    My question and proposed topic: is the failure of the show more likely due to timid corporate sponsorship which is afraid of the concepts contained in Jericho, or are we, as a nation, intimidated and frightened into refusal to even discuss the issues? If possible, I’d like to avoid obvious answers like “stupid populace,” “bad time slot,” “CBS sucks,” “network television is dead” and “the Neilson system is an archaic relic.”

    Umm… if you haven’t watched it, Mr. Scalsi, then I guess I’d recommend you pick up the DVDs or watch the reruns on SciFi Channel first. I know your time is at something of a premium these days, but you won’t regret it.

  73. *Do you think the media reflects life, or does life change with the media (I’m thinking specifically of explicit language here, but feel free to take it anywhere you want)?
    *Is it possible for one person, acting alone, to truly “make a difference” in the world?
    *Have you ever gotten writer’s block so bad that you couldn’t continue with a project? IF not, how do you prevent it? How do you stay “fresh”?
    *addictive tv shows…. watch any?
    *How has having access to a computer changed the writing process over the past few decades???

  74. I look at the news and it seems to me that we are headed for some kind of serious economic collapse. We borrow billions of dollars a day to print new US currency and keep everything afloat and I don’t see this as any kind of way to achieve any sort of stability. That coupled with the housing crisis, to me spells disaster.
    I look at the news and I also see the looming threat of global warming and I see a government that is unwilling to make any real change to make things better. We are still overly dependent upon foreign oil; we use about 50% of the world’s oil. Meanwhile Brazil has gone to great lengths to switch to E-85 and has made a viable difference in three years.
    Then I look to Science fiction and Futurists and I see a future that is brighter and possible. Take for example Cory Doctorow’s “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom”. Scarcity has been eliminated, death is a thing of the past and money has been replaced with a reputation based society, it’s a society that I wouldn’t mind living in.
    So my question is how do we get there and how hard do you see the road there?

  75. Since I’m all out of original ideas, I’m going to second Josh#85. We could give you regular reports like the good little minions we are!

  76. Topic: The Law of Diminishing Returns in Series Science Fiction & Fantasy.

    Don’t tell me it hasn’t come up before. And no disrespect to you, Scalzi, since thus far the three Old Man’s War novels have been of a uniformly excellent quality, but everyone from Orson Scott Card to Frank Herbert have suffered from the endless serialization of their greatest successes.

    How far can a high concept and beloved characters be taken before they descend into fan-service for a paycheck?

  77. The education of gifted children (including what teaching students should be taught – there should be a mandatory subject for them in their univerrsity course in my opinion).

  78. All the really good conspiracy theories we have in this county. I just heard one that I had somehow missed: the dark star or stars that are going to take us bottom feeders out. Not sure how this quite meshes with the Kennedy, 9/11, Apollo, Illuminati, Bohemian Grove, Rothschild, Trilateral Commission, thinning the herd theories but I am sure it does, somehow.

  79. Author’s who host message boards have a unique opportunity to observe their own little petri dish of personalities interacting. If an author chose to, he could add drama to the environment and see how the board as a whole reacted. He or she could play different characters on their own board, introducing scenarios and letting them play out for the sake of research. Sort of test out what the group think would be towards a given personality type or situation.

    Message boards become little micro families–sort of like Lord of the Flies cyber-style.

    Have you ever done this or do you know anyone who manipulates his board to become a passive observer for the sake of research or even boredom?

  80. I have no idea if this was mentioned yet, as I am far too lazy to read all the preceding comments.

    That being said, I would be partial to an entry on the role that memories and life experiences play in informing your writing, John.

    Thanks much.

  81. I’d second the idea of commenting on MMORPGs, but I really really want you to comment on Brandon Sanderson and perhaps his selection and skills for finishing the last Wheel of Time book.

  82. 1) Have you ever purchased/been gifted any of the original artwork that created for your book covers?

    2) Thinking back on your own school years, what classics/modern classics should still be taught at a high school level? Which should be dropped? What non-classic works should be taught? Why?

    3) A Night at the Opera or Night of the Living Dead?

  83. – Athena hits 18, Jeb’s in office, and she wants to join the army….whaddya say?

    – Does TMZ go out and by 8 million Amy Winehouse CDs so they can have a superstar to merit the tabloid headlines she produces? If not, at what point would it be profitable to do so?

    – Worst plot idea for a book you decided not to go with…

    – While science is nice and valuable… were you not rooting for the T Rex to eat Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park?

    – You begin to frequently catch your wife staring longingly at the hair band videos on MTV. Would you grow it out?

    – Is it too late to turn Kodi into a really mean dog?

    – Set odds on some nut murdering President Obama.

    – If you had the final say, who stars as The Old Man (or whatever his name was) in the Old Man’s War movie?

    – I love you, but you don’t look tough at all. Would you ever consider buying and openly brandishing a rifle to intimidate future Athena boyfriends?

    – Hiow often do you get goofed on in rural Ohio for not being into football?

    – Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the US using their military might to rule the world in an evil, Bond villain style.

    – Who would you rather fight… the toughest actor (I’m excluding martial artists), or the wimpiest pro wrestler?

    – Would you rather have the ability to be invisible, or the ability to fly? Granted, the O’Hare-ish timing of this question sucks.

    – If Hollywood came to you and said “Loved the book, but we want to make OMW into a movie called Gay Man’s War, starring, I don’t know, Ryan Seacrest.” Would you sign off on it?

    – Same question…. but it is asked right after Athena is accepted into Harvard, Krissy gets into cocaine, and Lopsided Cat needs a desperate operation….

    – Predict a death date for AOL Journals

    – We know who you think is cooler… but who would you rather BE… Superman or Batman?

    – Name 3 celebrities that you think will be dead in a year.

    – Your next novel makes you a fortune… but it is so offensive, you are exiled from the USA and banned from all English-speaking countries. Where would you start anew?

    – I just want to read it once on the Internet…. was France right to stay out of this Iraq War?

    – If Kodi made ALPO, what would go into it?

    – Have you ever been like “C’mon, Krissy… my readers want a second Scalzi kid,” or has she used that line of reasoning on you?

    – Coolest desired feature to your house that you can’t afford/hasn’t been invented yet?

    – A famous author becomes smitten with your OMW storyline… and wants to write a 4th (or whatever you’re on) book in the series. Who would you want this fantasy to involve?

    – What’s the most food you’ve ever eaten at once?

  84. Hi, John.

    How do you work with your translators ? Do you discuss beforehand the “voice” of the book, or do you just trust them to find it by themselves ? Do you have your word in the choice of a particular translator ?

    Do you still think of a book as “yours” once translated into a language you can’t read ? And do you wisely admit that “to translate is to betray” and get along with it, or insist on at least some minimum fidelity (and authoral control ?) ?

    Reciprocally, I’d be interested in your thoughts about the proportionally small number of SF books translated into English from other languages (and cultures). The economic argument apart, do you consider English-speaking SF to be basically self-sufficient ? Or even US science fiction ?

  85. toadstar in 91:

    We are still overly dependent upon foreign oil; we use about 50% of the world’s oil. Meanwhile Brazil has gone to great lengths to switch to E-85 and has made a viable difference in three years.

    I’ve studied this topic at some length. In many ways the US situation with fossil fuels is similar to our situation in Iraq. The end point is inevitable but it will involve the loss of life on a huge scale so we are hesitant to make that decision would rather delay and do little and hope for a miracle.

    The scale of our problem is enormous. Back-of-the-envelope calculations show that the entire Brazilian ethanol production today would cover just 2% of the US gasoline needs.

    Ethanol ain’t gonna do it. Nothing is. Everything together won’t. Over half the world population will die, and that is after most of us see a big drop in our standard of living.

    Now, if you were King of the World who would you select to die? Would your decision stand after you had been dethroned?

  86. The Brain Eater
    It gets almost all science-fiction authors; it got Heinlein and Niven, and there’s no reason to think you’re going to be immune to it, either. If the quality of your work suddenly took a nosedive, wouldn’t you want someone to come in and softly remove the keyboard from your hands?

  87. John,

    I’d like you to do a post about Larry Niven. I feel like he’s someone most people have read but don’t talk about much, he’s pretty singular in his dedication to hard science fiction, and in recent years it’s become clear that he is a political whack job. Note:
    However, I find myself hard pressed to remember hints of those politics in his writing.
    Anyway, I think he’s kind of an interesting part of science fiction that doesn’t get much notice, and I ‘d like to know what you think of his work, why it’s not on the radar more, why he’s so crazy; anything you want. Personally, i always found his characters to be very flat, yet I have always loved his books and I don’t know why.

  88. Second topic: Am I an idiot for describing an author as little noticed when he’s mentioned a post above mine?
    I think probably. Sorry Rick, John, the universe.

  89. Hello John,

    I really like your essay ‘Being Poor’. I’d love to see you do a piece on ‘What it means to be a person of good character’. I realize that’s no easy subject to tackle, but you’ve displayed a talent for examining issues that don’t have ‘easy sound byte’ answers and done so with skill. While there are issues I disagree with you on, I would be being dishonest if I said I don’t have a great deal of respect for you and the manner you present your position. So, if it isn’t overly broad, I’d love to examine that topic and hear your take on it.

    Brad (from happening Troy, OH)

  90. How about:

    America’s increasingly interventionist policies and where it is leading us.

    It seems that I share your views on a number of topics, particularly when it comes to politics and religion. I would love to hear your take on the above…

  91. The Republic of Lakota: publicity stunt, performance art, real secession, all of the above, or none of the above? Should the Native Americans secede from the U.S.? Would they ever be allowed to do so? What do you see as the best and the worst possible outcomes?

    Fan fiction: Do we need a way to give people the right to write noncommercial stories based on our works, if we want to? Or do we already have one? Is it called Creative Commons? :) You’ve already discussed the Organization for Transformative Works (and fanfic and Creative Commons separately), but they inspired the question.

    Fluffy music question: Are there any songs that you’re embarrassed to love? (Cheesy, bad politics, etc.)

  92. What are your thoughts on the evolution/Intelligent Design ‘debate’? Especially the movie Expelled and the recent events involving Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers? (

    I think I have a good guess (you are a science fiction writer) but I’d like to see exactly how you turn those phrases. Plus I expect you to surprise me a bit anyway.

  93. Kids of today and reading: how will technology and the visual culture we live in today effect the readership of SF in the future?

    What are we doing now to grow the readership of the next generation? Who do you think this generation’s Heinlein will be? (For the record, my bet is on Scott Westerfeld)

  94. 1.Fantasy & SF:where does the line between these two pass?

    2.The oil in the world runs out, after a long drop in output.What will happen?

    3.Five pet peeves you have with the American political system, and how they can be remedied.

  95. JUST one more question.

    Do you believe that the world will end Dec. 28 2012?

    Due to numerus “seers”, ancient calendars and “others” the “Galactic alignment” this is to occur at that time, is to bring either, a different life to everyone or the end of the world as we know it.
    Just wondered what your thoughts are about it..

  96. Aside from, you know, pie, do you like to cook, and what are some of your favorite recipes to make and or eat? Krissy’s favorites? Athena’s?
    (Does the dog ever get anything special?)

  97. What do you do to feed your creative process? Read certain books? Watch TV or movies? Subscribe to magazines? Poke around online?

    Do you manage your input, or just experience it, and does it change depending upon what you are writing?

  98. Are there any topics among the ones you’ve discussed in earlier years on which you now think what you said then was wrong? If so, what caused you to change your mind?

  99. Any tips on traveling with kids? Alternatively, do you use parental guidance ratings on tv shows or computer/videogames to help you decide what’s OK for Athena? if not, why not? And how did you decide how much time she can have on games/tv?

  100. Others have touched on the singularity, but I would like an examination of that and agw and any other concepts that have become secular religions. Dissing Niven and RAH can be considered fighting words. I will be outside the bar in Cut and Shoot, Texas this friday night. Bring it.

  101. You talk about your non-fiction ‘corporate’ writing a bit when you talk about the economics of being a writer – but we see no examples. As a freelance journalist myself, who writes an awful lot of copy for trade publications, I am fascinated by your ability to mix corporate prose with science fiction novels and stuff like Rough Guides. It’s very encouraging actually. But it would be really great to see some actual examples of this other side of your writing career and maybe some more from you about how you fit the two sides together [sometimes this will be deadline driven, obviously – but do you make sure to set aside specific times for fiction and non-fiction during the week, say?] This kind of insight is fascinating…

  102. I’m interested to hear your thoughts about parenting an only child. Mr. Dell and I learned our social skills at the hands (and fists) of our various siblings, and had always planned to have 2 or 3 kids so they could have companionship and whatnot. You know how it goes with plans…if we manage to become parents at all, it’s likely to only happen once. How do you raise a happy, unspoiled only child?

  103. It’s always fascinating to read about life in Smalltown, Ohio. I was wondering if you could write about religious life there. Does everyone go to church? Does everyone go to the same one and only church in town or everyone go to a different one of the 20 churches there? Do you go to church? Which one? Also, any Jews, Muslims, aethiests, etc around there?

    Another thing I was wondering about was how much do most people make around there (a guess of average household income in your town) and is there a lot of variation around the mean? Also, with everyone having so much land there, does it get used? Or just sit there looking pretty? Does the grass get mowed or just grow? If it gets mowed, by you? Outsource it?

  104. Daniel at #5.1 interests me too (about Scalzi the Benevolent Dictator).

    Could you add something about what Scalzi the Malevolent Dictator would do as well?

  105. Have you had any interesting experiences of academics interpreting your writing and bringing forth loads of symbolism and layers of meaning and such that you, as author, actually had no idea were there and no intention to plant there?

    I ask because this happened to me — a short story of mine ended up being explicated in an academic tome and the analysis ran longer than the story itself and covered all kinds of amazing things that never ever entered my mind. But it sure was fun for me to read. That experience reinforced for me a feeling I’d always had during literature classes that “authorial intent” is not always what you as a reader might think it is…

  106. Following up/seconding Sam C at #29: When Stross (in Accelerando) moves personalities from wetware to hardware (or vice versa), said personalities get copied. Practical details aside, I have no conceptual problems with this whatsoever. But in the OMW universe, personalities move from body to body, leaving not a rack behind (unless it’s a rack of beef).

    To me, this suggests some kind of dualism. My biggest beef (such as it is; not a full rack) with OMW is that this subject is never discussed, or even acknowledged as an issue. (Unless my admittedly faulty memory has failed me even more than usual. Which I can’t remember ever happening.)

    Care to discuss?

  107. Oh! I have a question.

    Cast yourself back to the Scalzi of twenty years ago.

    Now, in your life, are you anywhere near where you thought you’d be?

  108. Hmmm…had to skim and so have probably missed if this has already been asked, but what do you think of the evolution of our society as it stands today? I was an anthropology major in college, so there are things I see in today’s dominant American society, namely desensitization towards violence, that manifested itself in many of the dominant societies of ancient times relatively close to their downfalls. If we seem to be on the same trajectory as these formerly great societies, what do we need to do to correct ourselves in order to not follow them down the primrose path?

  109. What are the benefits and/or pitfalls of social nudism? This can apply to all of society, specific areas only, family only, or whatever other limits you wish to place on it.

  110. If you could only give one piece of parenting advice, what would it be?

    (Is your answer different if I ask, if you could only give _me_ one piece . . . ?)

  111. Alternative suggestion:

    Is anyone else even remotely troubled by the obvious power consolidations going on in the Federal Government? First it was the Executive Override – if you don’t like it, we cut your access and call you a traitor. Then Homeland Security collected all domestic “security” under its’ wing. Now it’s a new proposal to lump all financial regulation together under the Federal Reserve. Interestingly, at least according to MSNBC, the proposal would “propose eliminating the Office of Thrift Supervision and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, merging their functions into other agencies.”

    Now who on Wall Street would be in favor of the chaos of moving or transferring the CFTC? Why would the already lax regulation of savings and thrift institutions benefit by being thrown in a much larger pot with unrelated regulatory agencies?

    The very big question remains, however: who really thinks it’s a good idea to consolidate that much power into hands which already seem so prone to fumble?

  112. At risk of sounding odd, curious about your opinion on the whole ‘furry’ subculture. You know, with the anthropomorphic animals and such.

  113. We know you have a personal interest in copyright and the rules and regulations that determine who owns what and for how long. In that light, what is your opinion of the recent ruling handed down regarding Superman, Jerry Seigel’s heirs and your former employer AOL Time Warner?

    NY Times story

  114. Who would you like more to be related to? B Obama, H Clinton, J McCain, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, The Queen of England, or Robert Heinlein?

    Have you, or anyone in your family, done genealogy research – how far can you trace your ancestry – are you related to anyone notable? (Ignoring the mathematical reflexive property.)

  115. Do you ever have one of those days where you’re feeling completely unmotivated about writing, or you’re getting thoroughly sick of an in-progress novel? What do you do on such a day to push through that?

  116. @127 Mary, I have an only child who is 22 years old and, I’m pretty sure, relatively unspoiled (She’s thanked me already for saying no to her and not granting her every wish as she’s seen the consequences in friends who cannot deal with disappointment.) Most of the common sense things in parenting apply. The most important being setting routines and boundaries and being firm and consistent. Also picking your battles –let the small stuff be small stuff (this is so hard to remember though). I repeatedly told my daughter that my job was not to keep her happy all the time but to make sure that she would be able to survive without me when she was an adult. If he/she wants something particularly expensive make him/her work for it and save at least half the cost. Clean out old toys before gift receiving times and give to Goodwill or other charities with your child. Children can be genuinely caring and generous when given the chance. Above all take the time to have fun with your child and share your interests with them —to the extent that it is reasonable. (I’m sure John has his own thoughts on the matter, too.)

    Anyway, this isn’t about me or my daughter –on to the questions:

    What bloggers do you read besides Wil Wheaton, Making Light, and Neil Gaiman and why?

    Where do you like to read news/current events and why?

    Has there ever been a meet up of Whatever readers?

  117. Since the days of Jules Verne most science fiction has been about the future. In a post-factual world — one in which 30% of the electorate believes Barack Obama to be a Muslim, wealth isn’t earned so much as created in an act of derivative magic, and a “Creation Science” museum exists — will it be necessary for science fiction to turn instead to the past?

  118. Me and my friend were discussing the type of fame you have, and we decided you have the perfect type of fame. You are unlikely to be mobbed in the streets, however, at certain places (ConFusion, for example, we were on our way there when we had this discussion), you are among the most famous, most recognized, and most well-respected people in the room. Do you agree that this is the perfect fame level, or would being just a little bit more, or even a little bit less, famous suit you better?

  119. In my experience, there are relatively few “funny” SF novels. As the author of a couple of them, what is your take on humor in SF?

  120. You’re bringing up a daughter. Is there anything you’d do differently if you were bringing up a son?

    (Feel free to fold this into the much more interesting only child question up above).

  121. Do you take pride in your neighborhood….on the bookshelves? Any thoughts on where you are placed, who your next-book neighbors might be, what kind of miracle-gro they use on their words?

    I seem to find Scalzi along the top two shelves at the local Barnes & Noble, tucked in next to Robert J. Sawyer and an occasional Karl Schroeder. Dan Simmons is on your block!

    Am I skimping on the poor souls who happen to reside on the bottom shelf because the bookstores put the shelves so close together that you can’t step back far enough to SEE the spines and I don’t want to sit down on the floor to read the titles?

    Do you think your proximity to a best-seller name has any effect on your own bottom line?

  122. Oh God, a writing question. (A short one.)

    I just finished reading Old Man’s War, (loved it.) And it occurred to me in retrospect, it doesn’t have a real obvious “There’s a bomb and we have to find it!” or “Aliens invade earth, we must find a way to stop them using weapons made of tinfoil for it is their only weakness,” type of plot, with some big ending that resolves everything. It seems more about the protagonist’s journey.

    My question is, how do you approach plot? Do you start with a “Big Idea” or just a character, and let him/her tell you the story?

  123. How many web hosting services have you used, and what makes you stay with your current one? What, if anything, was wrong with your previous services, if any?


    A new author who needs to set up a website soon.

  124. Given your history as a newspaperman, a writer, and a rather popular blogger, what do you think of the theories and statements of Andrew Keen, whose book “The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture” is quite the controversial item?

    – yeff

  125. Perhaps redundant, but:

    Do you have, or believe that you have, a recognizable style, such that you and others reading a variety of your work would recognize something that your novels, reviews, AOL writing, college essays, blog posts, etc. have in common? If so, do you work towards this style in your novels and away from it in contract writing projects? How does it feel to to write in that style? (For example, when I think I am writing something decent that is all or mostly my own, even if it is just a work memo, writing feels calm, almost serene. Adjusting to someone else’s voice is easy enough, but awkward.)

    Related: Are there writers, outside SF, whose styles you particularly admire?

  126. You often write about video games and such. What is your favorite game both old school and new?

    Any particular console or pc game ever strike you as the penultimate game that someone’s collection would have to have?

    Thanks for answering our questions!

  127. Okay, so this one is kinda out there.

    What thing do humans do today that, while we see it now as normal and appropriate, in 500 years we’ll look back with revulsion and/or shame? I’m thinking along the lines of the witch trials, or the Inquisition, bloodletting as a medical treatment for practically every ailment, etc. Again, we must view this practice as normal or at least acceptable; everyone agrees that the genocide in Rwanda was heinous, so events like that would be excluded.

    Finally, I’m thinking of things we currently do in the post-9/11 era, which would also automatically exclude the Rwanda genocide.


  128. Someone earlier in the comments (joelfinkle, comment #8) asked about your thoughts on shared world fiction, and I’m curious about this as well. The previous commenter asked if you would ever consider writing something that takes place in a shared world, but I’m curious if you would ever consider opening up your worlds for others to write in. Some of my favorite books take place in settings that were created years before by other authors. I’ve also read books where the author spends so much time setting up a new and interesting world that they seem to forget to add a good story and likeable characters.

  129. What non-writing goal or desire would you like to still accomplish?

    This could be something like doing a marathon, meeting a hero of yours, etc.

  130. Why do you think so many people enjoy using the phrase Electric Boogaloo? How has this phrase risen above it’s trite beginnings to spread joy across the blogsphere, if not the nation?

  131. A blogger you read posts your perfect April Fool’s post. Who’s the blogger and what’s the post?

  132. It may be too late now, but just in case …
    In the movie “Martian Child,” the protagonist (who is an author of SF) states that in every work of fiction, one of the characters is a representation of the author himself. Do you agree with this? If so, which character in Android’s Dreams is you?

  133. Why is it so hard to get good science fiction to translate from print into film or video. The SciFi Channel has had to add wrestling and paranormal crap to keep the kiddies interested. Oh the humanity.

  134. I came to your question on fame from an Instapundit link, I believe.

    So, who are you and what do you do?

  135. What do you think of all the “coaches” that are invading non-sports life? The executive coaches, dating coaches and life coaches? It seems to me that people have forgotten to how to be people in this PC, lawsuit happy life we live.

    I think that if they help people, they are a good thing, but it seems strange to have a life coach. It seems pretty ridiculous, but I guess you got to do what you gotta do.

    Thanks, and keep up the great work.

  136. Torture, or is it perfectly acceptable to beat the snot out of 1,000 people to get actionable information from one that prevents other deaths?

    Should this be legal and does it fly in the face of U.S. history?

    We discussed this in my foreign policy class the other night and I’d be curious to see where you weigh in.

  137. I have bought tickets to Denvention and I am looking forward to seeing all of my favorite authors. My question is what is the appropriate way to approach an author? Ignore (or not) behavior like stalking and such (knocking on hotel door at 2am) but how would you like to be approached? I’m fluctuating between, Ohmygod,ohmygod,ohmygod, it’s scalzi!!!!!! and a deep scary “it’s good to meet you, John.”
    Part of the problem is that I feel like I know you fairly well, because of how open and sharing you are here on the blog, but you know nothing about me. How do/should you (and us as your fans) manage this inequality?

  138. My question is along the same lines as James @170

    Is it odd for you to meet Whatever readers in person? I can imagine the conversation going something like this:

    Reader: Hi! I read your blog and all your books and we are totally long lost soul-mates!

    Scalzi: Security!

    Since you tell the world at large what you think about, well, whatever, I would imagine that people approach you assuming they know you much better than they actually do. How do you handle it?

  139. I have a question about blogging, family, and personal/private lines.

    If, when Athena is older, she asks you to remove all pictures of her, and all comments about things she’s done, will you comply?

  140. Whatever happened to the population explosion?

    Back in the 1960s and 70s everyone knew it was a looming unavoidable disaster. But it went away at some point*, and now I see people snarking about it with the implication that anyone who ever thought there was anything to it was an idiot or a racist or both.

    Is this one of those ideas thats a always wrong, but the public wouldn’t listen to the experts? Or did the science or situation change?

    *Yes the world population may still be rising, and that messes up the environment, but no one talks about how we are all going to die or all be living in tiny boxes eating soylent green anymore.

  141. Space Elevators.

    Lord love you and keep you, John, but you and your ilk have caused some real problems.

    And by ‘your ilk’ I mean ‘writers’.

    I’m talking specifically about space elevators [1] but also ‘science-y’ things in general.

    Some, but not all, sf readers get their science from books. Not, say, non-fiction books by Asimov, but from fiction. If Scalzi said it then it must be so, forever and a day, amen.

    I don’t think they even _know_ this, and they’ll never admit to it but some of the gosh-darndest ideas are floating around in people’s minds as a result of science-fiction and not science and they will … not … let them go.

    As an example take the space elevator in OMW. Somewhere, some poor rube has it stuck in his head that building one will take all of the GDP for the next one-hundred years, require a hole the size of Texas in the Amazon and it’s darn difficult to argue them out of it. You show them facts, they balk. Show them budget estimates (rough ones, sure) and they snigger. You show them the spreadsheet you pulled those numbers from and the gueess-timations and ask them where, based on your idea, where all of that money is going to go .. and they look muleish.

    Anyhoo. Science in Sci-Fi: How does it diverge from reality, why and would it make life easier for some of us if you included an afterward in your books.

    [1] Bias warning – I work (or worked) for Liftport since early 2003. Nothing exciting, I mostly took care of the web server and email, plus ad-hoc PR.

  142. How long does it take for you to write the blog every day? Do you ever plan in advance what you’ll write about during the week? Do you have a list of “in case of emergency break glass” topics?

  143. Are making books and stories available online the equivalent of putting music on the radio, in that both serve to advertise products that might otherwise never be experienced?

  144. What was the single most satisfying moment in your professional life as a writer? You know, the one moment that made you think “yeah, this is why I’m doing this for a living”?

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