The By Now Standard E-Mail Note
Posted on September 14, 2008 Posted by John Scalzi 6 Comments
I’ve now caught up with my e-mail for the last couple of weeks. With the exception of Big Idea submissions, which I am still working on, if you sent me e-mail since the beginning of September and were hoping for a response but got none, go ahead and send another e-mail on the same subject. Thanks.
Hmmm…if it takes you that long to read through your email, perhaps there’s a better chance of you reading this…
Just wanted to thank you for your wonderful writing in Old Man’s War. It was fantastic. It’s now in my ‘Top 10’ of favorite books. I have great hopes for your other works. Let’s hope you don’t disappoint. :)
…has anyone told you that you resemble Tony Hale (Buster) from Arrested Development? At least, your photo in the back of the book reminded me of him. Perhaps it was the short-cropped hair.
Noticed that “John Scalzi” has the same last name as my Italian grandfather (and my mother’s last name) and wondered if we were related.
My looking through AMCTV was a function of this below comment I was planning to make to AMC staff:
“I will make a point of not viewing “Madmen.” I’m tired of the sell intrusiveness. The practice of in-your-face advertising splashed almost continuously in-your-face while viewing your movies, interfering and visually fragmenting, suggests Madmen is a hipped up piece of crap. The series is probably nothing more than of the same abusive and monotonous mentality of corporate disregard of the viewing public, the crap of greed and “sell” intrusiveness with melodramatic gloss. Is not the “AMC” in the right bottom corner enough intrusion and imposition upon the viewing public? Apparently you can’t smell your own corporate stink for the greed. But many do feel the stink, and are turning elsewhere for entertainment. ”
However, the Scalzi last name is more interesting.
David Foster Wallace and Thomas M. Disch, together again at last. David Foster Wallace was just 46. The same as as my mother was when she died, albeit not so much by choice as by ovarian cancer and her choice to undergo experimental chemotherapy (as I later learned, artificial RNA to stimulate production of Interferon. Which did not work at all).
Damn, damn, an infinite fractal of damns.
I am always perturbed when a writer whose work I like (and/or whom I like in person) commits suicide.
Because if they moved me so much, parts of us were diffeomorphic, and I don’t want to commit suicide.
Suicide, Wickersham writes, is “the only cause of death that can be used as a noun to describe the dead person. If you die of cancer you are not called ‘a cancer.’ If someone else shoots you, you are not referred to as ‘a murder.’
‘The Suicide Index’ by Joan Wickersham
How a family tragedy cast a long shadow over one writer’s life.
By David L. Ulin
August 31, 2008
The Suicide Index
Putting My Father’s Death in Order
Harcourt: 316 pp., $25
Which leads to to another blog by a suicide.
He was blogging; depressed, and angry, and lonely, within 2 days of taking his life.
The last couple of weeks read more tragically when you know what would happen — as he seems to have known.
He was one of the great Science Fiction / Fantasy / Horror writers of our day, and taken quite seriously as a poet, and opera reviewer, and teacher.
He encouraged my science fiction poetry, and was always kind to me, all the time that we met and talked for hours about art and the human condition. He had fights picked with him by Philip K. Dick (as spun in Tom Disch’s to-be-posthumous novel), and picked fights with others in the field, such as Algis Budrys, so soon gone ahead of Tom. I do not believe that they are arguing literary theory in Heaven.
I’m very sad — but not as sad as he was, in his last years.
Deep philosophical questions are raised.
I think that the best science fiction authors, about
teleportation with non-destroyed originals, and murder, trump the philosophers and the Quantum Physicists here. The best such fictions are worth reading, as their reasoning is deep.
The first major novel on the subject was Rogue Moon, a short science fiction novel by Algis Budrys, published in 1960. It was a 1961 Hugo Award nominee.
Teleporting without immediately deleting the original is the basis for “Think Like a Dinosaur.” It is a science fiction novelette written by James Patrick Kelly, first published in the June 1995 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. It was later adapted for television.
THINK LIKE A DINOSAUR
Directed by: Jorge Montesi
Teleplay by: Mark Stern, based on a short story by James Patrick Kelly
A lone space station technician must cohabit with a lizard-like alien species to learn its complex technology for long-distance space travel.
Michael Burr (ENRICO COLANTONI) is the only permanent human occupant of the Tuulen station, situated on a vast empty plain of the Moon. His companions are the Hanen, an emotionless, lizard-like alien species who have developed a highly advanced means of long distance travel by “jumping” through space. Achieved by creating an exact duplicate of the jumper, the copy is reconstituted at the destination
point and the original destroyed, thus leaving only one.
Kamala Shastri (LINNEA SHARPLES) is one of the test jumpers to arrive for travel to the planet Gend, but in the final stage of the transfer, something inexplicable happens. Confirmation of her duplicate’s arrival is not received from Gend and the procedure is temporarily aborted. When it’s later determined that Kamala’s copy does indeed exist, Michael is called upon to balance the equation and eliminate the original. Michael knows the human race is desperate to access a technology that would allow them to leave behind a planet now virtually destroyed by pollution and over population. He also knows it is imperative that he avoid a protocol breach with the Hanen. But can he bring himself to kill Kamala?
Enrico Colantoni as Michael Burr
Linnea Sharples as Kamala
David Lewis as Steve
A more subtle take on teleportation with a transformed original was due to Thomas M. Disch, who died by suicide 4 July 2008.
There is very much a Computer Science/Complexity feel in both David Foster Wallace’s prose in the sprawling 1,079-page novel “Infinite Jest,” and in Thomas M. Disch’s under-rated novel with its ingenious metaphysical puzzle solved (from the protagonist’s viewpoint) by a very clever mapping of the entire Earth to another manifold. This novel which Sladek [I’ve corrected some spelling errors] summarizes thus.
In Echo Round His Bones, the army is real enough, and so are the murders. Captain Nathan Hansard has frequent nightmares in which he sees civilians herded behind barbed wire, a child incinerated. He has in fact killed a five-year-old: ‘I incinerated him in self-defense,’
he says, in the greatest piece of self-justification before Nixon.
The murder has also killed Hansard’s inner life and made him a misfit. This army is less suited to him than to our old friend Neil, who turns up here as the mindless, mean Sergeant Worsaw. Neil’s only skill was hunting; Worsaw’s first act is to shoot at a rabbit.
The army is using a ‘manmitter’ to send men to Mars in
preparation for a war. Hansard is so transmitted and discovers a curious side-effect. As his real self is sent to Mars, a second, ghostly Hansard is created at the transmitter — an echo. Free of the army, and of the conventional world, his adventures begin.
The book is more wonderfully conceived than executed, for it becomes necessary to explain the nature of echo-existence in great detail (Milton has the same trouble with his angels — what do they eat, etc?). In brief, the real world is visible but insubstantial to the echo-person, who is wholly undetectable to real people. Thus Hansard1 (in the real world) could be seen, and could even write
messages for Hansard2 (the echo). The echo can read the messages but not pick up the paper it is written on. Food, air, etc. have to be echoed to keep him alive, which means that someone in the real world has to take his existence on faith and send supplies. There are also echoes of echoes– a Hansard3 and so on.
Hansard’s ghosts meet the ghosts of Professor Panofsky, the kindly crippled inventor of the machine, and the Panofsky’s ghostly wives. Or are they really married? Can ghosts be held to marriage vows? They have a lot of Thorne-Smithian fun with the idea.
Panofsky explains all, giving fine Jesuit arguments to prove that echoes are free, not only from the world, but of sin. Redeemed, the echo Hansard lives happily ever after.
Echo Round His Bones works well enough as a wonder-tale; any deeper intentions in the book must be taken on faith. It does seem to bring in once more the notion of physical constraint (and how to get rid of it): freedom from the body is freedom from sin; Panofsky
(wholly cerebral and living in a wheelchair) is a balletomane; his reads Hansard has to die before the happy ending.
Anyone ever tell you that you are better looking than Elmo? No? Let me be the first.
M. Taylor: I found “Madmen” to be a stinging critique of what you blithley assumed it to valorize. In the 2nd season, the women turn out to be deeper than they were shown — less of the victims of adultery and sexism than they seemed in season 1. Watch some, and see. By the way, I can’t stand ads on TV. I hit the mute button every time. At someone else’s home, I beg them to do the same. I can’t tune out ads. It’s a cocktail-party-effect thang.
Hey I just started reading your book, and I must say you are a brilliant dialogue writer. I have never in my 25 years of reading actually laughed myself silly from something I have read.
Your banter brings out the emotive bonds between characters that I have been trying to capture with my own writing, and am thoroughly jealous of your ability. is there any suggestions you could give to a ‘budding’ writer to be able to capture those moments that you have done so well with Old man’s war? I’m only into part 2 right now, but already I know I’m going to be upset when it’s done… you know how that goes, when you read a character and start to think of him as someone you ‘know’, and therefore get upset when his world ends. anyway, this is the first time i’ve considered myself a true fan of anything really, and wanted to spread the love.